Cablevision launches Freewheel Wi-Fi service, highlights data capabilities instead of voice

Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) kicked off sales of its Freewheel Wi-Fi calling and data service, and now seems to be emphasizing Freewheel's data capabilities as opposed to the service being a replacement for cellular service. The service costs $9.95 per month for Cablevision's Optimum Online customers and $29.95 per month for non-customers, and right now works with only one smartphone, Motorola's Moto G, which will sell at a heavily discounted price of $99.95.

"Cellular was built for voice and Wi-Fi was built for data, which is why Wi-Fi is the preferred choice for data usage today," Cablevision COO Kristin Dolan said in a statement. "Freewheel integrates a high quality device backed by the strength of our professionally maintained carrier-grade Wi-Fi network. As the thirst for data continues to grow, Freewheel provides consumers with a better, faster data experience, all at a fraction of the cost of cellular."

That seems to be an attempt to pull back from the notion that Freewheel can be a replacement for cellular. Unlike other Wi-Fi calling services like Republic Wireless or Scratch Wireless, Freewheel does not have a cellular backup option if Wi-Fi service is unavailable.

"The big picture for us is the fundamental transformation in how people use their devices," Dolan told the New York Times when Cablevision first unveiled the service last week. "It has been a migration in the past decade from voice to data."

Many commentators and analysts pointed out that there are clear limitations to Freewheel, including the fact that customers may face poor Wi-Fi reception outside of Cablevision's network footprint, and may have to connect to other, non-Cablevision hotspots. And, of course, they won't get service if they can't get onto a Wi-Fi network. Article