Cablevision Freewheel WiFi Service Takes on Mobile Service Providers

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-01-27
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Cablevision Freewheel WiFi Service Takes on Mobile Service Providers
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    Cablevision Freewheel WiFi Service Takes on Mobile Service Providers

    By Don Reisinger
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    The Cost Is Substantially Less Than Regular Wireless Service
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    The Cost Is Substantially Less Than Regular Wireless Service

    Customers who want to ditch their traditional smartphone service for Freewheel might actually find a solid deal. Freewheel costs just $29.95 per month for unlimited voice, text and data. While that's only available via WiFi, it's up to 80 percent less than a comparable plan from competing cellular providers.
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    Current Optimum Online Customers Get It for Even Less
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    Current Optimum Online Customers Get It for Even Less

    Cablevision is offering its own Optimum Online customers the opportunity to get into Freewheel for just $9.95 per month. Optimum Online is Cablevision's Web service, which includes high-speed Internet. Those who have Cablevision television service and no Internet, however, will be forced to pay the $29.95 per month.
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    Cablevision Supports Motorola Moto G
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    Cablevision Supports Motorola Moto G

    For now, Cablevision is saying that Freewheel will launch with one supported smartphone: the Motorola Moto G. The handset will go for $99.95 and be sold through its Freewheel Website. The Moto G is a midrange handset running on Android that has received generally positive reviews. It's a nice starter device for Cablevision and Freewheel.
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    No Contracts Are Required
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    No Contracts Are Required

    Contracts have long been the bane of the mobile industry, locking people into two-year deals that cost them boatloads of cash if they wanted out. Cablevision says that Freewheel will be available without contracts, so customers can get out whenever they want. Freewheel is also offering a 30-day money-back guarantee to sweeten the pot.
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    The Service Works on Any WiFi Network and Optimum Hotspots
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    The Service Works on Any WiFi Network and Optimum Hotspots

    How does Freewheel work? According to Cablevision, customers who have the Moto G in hand will need to connect to any WiFi network or one of the company's 1.1 million Optimum Online hotspots. From there, they can place calls, send text messages and surf the Web. Once they're off WiFi, the smartphone goes back to being an offline plaything without any connection to cellular service.
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    It Makes Sense From a Data-Usage Standpoint
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    It Makes Sense From a Data-Usage Standpoint

    From a data-use perspective, the Freewheel idea isn't such a bad one. Approximately 80 percent of all smartphone data use occurs on wireless networks, and according to Cablevision, that number bumps higher to 93 percent when mobile and portable products are included. That information, which comes from Cisco's most recent yearly index, seems to indicate that, at least from a data perspective, users might find Freewheel to be a solid deal.
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    There Should Be a Cellular Fallback Service
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    There Should Be a Cellular Fallback Service

    It's important to point out that Freewheel is WiFi-only and not WiFi-first. What that means is that while customers are away from a wireless network, the device is practically useless. A WiFi-first model would allow for a cellular failsafe, which means the device would connect to a participating cellular network if a WiFi network isn't available. That could be a major missing piece for Freewheel as it tries to attract customers.
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    U.S. Calls Are Free, but International Calls Will Cost You
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    U.S. Calls Are Free, but International Calls Will Cost You

    According to Cablevision, Freewheel will allow users to place calls to phones in the United States at no charge. However, when users want to make international calls, calling rates kick in. Freewheel's international rates start at 2 cents per minute, and users are limited to $50 per month for international calling.
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    Expect More Device Support
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    Expect More Device Support

    With a single phone available at launch, Cablevision is a little light on hardware choices. However, Cablevision has made clear that it did not sign an exclusivity agreement with Motorola and could, in the future, add more devices to its service. Considering one device won't attract too many users, it seems rather likely that more devices are coming.
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    Other Companies Will Follow
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    Other Companies Will Follow

    So, what's next? Several companies will follow Cablevision's lead. According to a recent report, Google will be planning to launch a WiFi-first service at some point in the future. Google's service would seek out the best option for the user—WiFi, Sprint's network or T-Mobile's network—and provide voice, data and text. There's also a rumor that Comcast is monitoring how Cablevision performs in the mobile space and could jump in with its own WiFi-first service. If that happens, WiFi-only offerings, like Freewheel, could be in for trouble due to their limited usability when away from WiFi.
 

Cablevision announced on Jan. 26 that starting in February, it will offer a $29.95-per-month service, called Freewheel, which will allow customers to place calls, surf the Web and send text messages whenever their smartphone is connected to a WiFi network. The move showed that while cellular service providers aren't likely to lose their grip on the mobile space any time soon, other companies are finding ways to enter the market and try to steal some share. Cablevision is the first major cable provider to look at mobile and see an opportunity, but it might not be the last. With companies like T-Mobile—the self-proclaimed "un-carrier"—changing the way the mobile business operates, 2015 is shaping up to be another rough and tumble year of increasing competition among mobile service providers. This slide show will look at what Freewheel offers to customers looking for an alternative mobile service. Although few believe Freewheel will make a major impact on market share, it could become a proof-of-concept that ultimately shakes up the mobile industry.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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