Wi-Fi networks are emerging as a "must have" for cable operators; the latest proof is the $15 million Time Warner Cable has spent on a new Wi-Fi network that serves its Los Angeles footprint.
Time Warner Cable has rolled out Wi-Fi in a few other systems and in parts of its New York City system – the latter of which allows shared hotspots with Comcast and Cablevision – but at more than 40 square miles, the Los Angeles network is the company's largest Wi-Fi build to date.
Time Warner Cable worked with wireless vendor BelAir Networks for the service that covers areas of Venice Beach, West Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Newport Beach and other cities within Orange County. Time Warner Cable started work on the Wi-Fi network earlier this year, according to a company spokesman.
The Southern California Wi-Fi network is free to all of Time Warner Cable's data subscribers, and it's also offering a "pay-as-you-go," fee-based service to non-Time Warner Cable customers and area visitors.
Wi-Fi networks can reduce customer churn for cable operators, and to date, Cablevision has been the poster child for successfully implementing Wi-Fi with its other service offerings. Last week, Shaw Communications announced it was scrapping its LTE network build in favor of a Wi-Fi network.
Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt has said this year that high-speed data services will become the company's "anchor" service going forward. The Wi-Fi service was designed to complement Time Warner Cable's data services. On that note, the company also recently expanded the availability of its Wideband 50 DOCSIS 3.0-based service, which features download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, in Southern California.
Time Warner Cable said in the Wi-Fi press release that it was quickly approaching 50 percent of homes passed in Southern California for Wideband 50, with full wideband access planned by the end of next year.
During the conference call announcing Shaw's switch to Wi-Fi, company executives noted that Cablevision has been able to reduce churn through its Wi-Fi service, while also gaining additional pricing power by including Wi-Fi into its data plans.
During its most recent earnings report, Britt spoke about the value that Wi-Fi brings to the table.
"The broadband business continues to benefit from the accelerating usage trends," he said. "We're seeing more demand for our higher speeds, and pricing remains strong. As broadband becomes increasingly important to our customers, we think we can create additional value by making it available to them everywhere. We're continuing to deploy Wi-Fi capabilities in Los Angeles. And we're exploring how we might sell broadband packages that would bundle our wireline service with Wi-Fi and wireless service for a single attractive price. You'll be hearing more about our plans in the coming months."
To find the Time Warner Cable Wi-Fi network, customers should look for the network titled "TWC Wi-Fi" on their Wi-Fi devices. Time Warner Cable Wi-Fi will provide a simple sign-on process for Time Warner Cable customers using their Road Runner address and password. Once registered, Time Warner Cable's subscribers' devices will auto-connect to the Internet within the TWC Wi-Fi network.
"Time Warner Cable is committed to making Internet access fast, easy and accessible to all," said John Keib, president of residential services for Time Warner Cable's West Region. "Through TWC Wi-Fi, with our one-time authentication process, Time Warner Cable customers, whether local or visiting, will be able to quickly connect to the Internet for no additional cost from their tablet, iPad, mobile phone or laptop, wherever they are – neighborhood coffee shop, beach, vacationing at a local hotel. There is no searching for a network: The device recognizes the TWC Wi-Fi network as a default setting and connects. And with accelerated Wideband 50 at home, customers can access the Internet at the fastest speeds we've ever offered."
For more information on how cable operators can leverage Wi-Fi networks, check out this recent CED Webinar.