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Summary:

The three cable providers in the New York metro area have banded together to create a Wi-Fi network that any of the companies’ customers can use, turning the city into a big hotspot for all those smartphones and iPads. Is this the age of Wi-Fi roaming?

The three cable providers in the New York City metro area have banded together to create a Wi-Fi network that any of the companies’ customers can use, essentially turning the city into a cluster of hotspots for all those folks toting smartphones and iPads. Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Comcast have signed roaming agreements, so customers of one can get on the Wi-Fi network owned by one of the others for free.

Last month, Om mentioned that Time Warner Cable was offering Wi-Fi service to its customers in partnership with Cablevision. The announcement today adds Comcast and formalizes the idea of the three as roaming partners anywhere the members have Wi-Fi networks in the NYC area.  Back in January I pondered this exact sort of relationship developing among ISPs:

So will ISPs take the consumer love of ubiquitous broadband and carriers’ need for offload to the next level and create the equivalent of roaming agreements for Wi-Fi? Greg Williams, the new SVP of corporate development at Bel Air Networks, thinks they might. …He wonders if carriers will negotiate with each other and fixed-line ISPs to get access for their wireless subscribers, especially in congested cities such as New York or San Francisco.

At the time I was skeptical because I couldn’t see the big carriers — namely AT&T and Verizon — doing anything to radically cut into their data revenue (GigaOM Pro sub req’d) from their 3G networks, but having cable providers offer such a service makes sense, especially given that the cable guys right now are also up against Verizon FiOS in some of their markets. The ability to offer free Wi-Fi while on the go (plus paid mobile broadband service through the partnership with Clearwire) makes their broadband product portfolio competitive with Verizon (which signed a Wi-Fi agreement of its own), and is decreasing churn. And all of this makes for happy Wi-Fi users.

Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr user Adventures in Librarianship.

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  1. CCTVBLOG | Blog | Free Wi-Fi roaming courtesy of Cablevision, Time Warner, Comcast Thursday, April 15, 2010

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  2. This fights Verizon and other wireline and wireless vendors from offering similar services. Basically 1 reason to stay with Cable and 1 sale taken away from Verizon wireline, but also from Verizon, Sprint, etc. selling 3G/4G hot spot hardware/service plans.

    Also some FIOS subscriptions you get free WiFi at any FIOS POP, so this also competes with that as well.

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