On the Hot Seat with Cablevision's Kevin Curran

Cable operator Cablevision has taken a different tactic when it comes to offering broadband wireless to its customers. While its counterparts such as Comcast and Time Warner decided to invest in the Sprint-Clearwire joint venture, Cablevision announced earlier this year that it would spend more than $300 million to rollout WiFi in New York and Long Island. Jim Barthold, contributing editor to FierceWireless, recently had this exchange with Kevin Curran, Cablevision's senior vice president of wireless product development.

Fierce Wireless: You've chosen WiFi instead of WiMAX like many of your counterparts. Why?

Kevin Curran: As we've said, our WiFi strategy is a here-and-now strategy to provide very high-speed data to our customers. Between 75 and 80 percent of all high-speed data users in our footprint are on our network, in the New York metropolitan region. So we have a very high market share, and a very fast network, and we think all of these factors and the proliferation of WiFi-enabled devices puts us in a position to deliver a meaningful enhancement to our high-speed Internet service today.

FierceWireless: How is your WiFi deployment progressing?

Curran: We announced earlier in the month that we had already deployed the largest and most advanced WiFi network in the country, with service now active in the commercial and high-traffic areas across a significant portion of Long Island, including on the commuter rail platforms and station parking lots across the entire Island.

FierceWireless: You currently offer WiFi free to existing broadband customers. Is that the long-term strategy or do you start to break it down into usage and/or tiers of service?

Curran: We're deploying Optimum WiFi as a value-add for our Optimum Online high-speed Internet customers.

FierceWireless: You're spending $300 million on the deployment. How do you recoup the costs if you offer it for free?

Curran: Our strategy is to both attract new customers by making our Internet service even more valuable, and to cement our relationships with existing customers for the long haul through enhancements like Optimum WiFi. We believe free and broadly available WiFi access will become an important and popular enhancement for our Optimum Online customers.

FierceWireless: You've been quoted saying you will offer other services including voice and video over WiFi network. Is there a timetable for these services? Can you give us more details on the types of services you mean?

Curran: We haven't discussed a specific timetable beyond the two-year deployment of the WiFi service itself, but ultimately the wireless network we're building is capable of voice and video, it has all the functionality of our DOCSIS high-speed network, so we'll be able to add tremendous value to our overall consumer proposition relatively inexpensively on a per-subscriber basis.

FierceWireless: Will your WiFi be part of a residential/commercial services play or is this just for residential users?

Curran: Optimum WiFi is an extension of our Optimum Online high-speed Internet product, which serves both residential and small business customers.  Anyone with an Optimum Online user ID and password can access the network.