Sprint-Cable JV Quietly Making Strides Toward Quad-play
While many of us were distracted by the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona last week, an interesting development occurred on the U.S. wireless landscape. As part of the joint venture between Sprint and four cable companies, Time Warner Cable launched its Mobile Access wireless service (powered by Sprint) in Austin, TX and Raleigh, NC.
This isn't the first of the joint venture market launches. Comcast debuted its quadruple-play offering in two markets: Boston and Portland, OR, last December. But Time Warner's entry is significant because not only is it offering voice services but also some customized local TV programming.
The data service is structured similar to a cable TV plan, with customers paying $15 per month for a basic service that includes unlimited wireless Internet, email access and Sprint picture mail. There's also an enhanced package that costs $25 per month and includes the basic services plus Time Warner Mobile TV programming. The mobile TV offering has a variety of channels that Sprint currently offers through its Sprint TV service plus local news, traffic and weather channels. And like the Sprint TV offering, premium channels are available for an additional $4.95 per channel.
But the Time Warner Mobile TV has another interesting content tie-in--customers can view their cable TV programming guides on the phone. This appears to be a step toward what I thought was one of the key visions of the JV--providing wireless customers with the ability to remotely program their cable DVR through their wireless phones.
Although that service isn't available yet, it appears that the Sprint-cable JV is making some strides toward that goal. But I'd also like to see some more tie-ins between the cable programming and the mobile programming. Current Analysis analyst Westin Henderek writes in an intelligence report that Time Warner and Sprint need to resolve any potential DRM issues so that this type of joint content offering will become available. And he also urges the two companies to roll out their remote programmable DVR service before year-end to build momentum for the Mobile Access service. I agree with Henderek. Currently the Time Warner and Comcast offerings are little more than wireless resell deals. I want to see more than just clever pricing bundles. I want interesting product tie-ins, shared content and remote DVR access. That's what I think it will take to make these offers truly compelling for consumers. -Sue
P.S. I'd like to welcome our new monthly columnist Andrew Seybold of the Andrew Seybold Group. Many of you may know Andy. He is a colorful and outspoken wireless industry visionary and consultant. He is president of Andrew Seybold's Outlook 4Mobility, which produces electronic news and commentary. In addition, his firm produces the Wireless Data University. The day-long seminar is held in conjunction with the CTIA Wireless conferences. Andy's first column appears in today's newsletter (see below).
And finally, I'd like to personally invite you to come join me and the other FierceWireless editors at our networking party in Orlando. The party, called 'From Orlando With Love,' will be held on March 28 (during the CTIA Wireless 2007 conference) from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the Destiny Nightclub. RSVP here.