On Monday, Cablevision announced plans to market a mobile phone service that would be supported by the 1.1 million Wi-Fi spots deployed by the company in the greater New York region since 2007. The first service of its kind to be marketed by a U.S. cable operator, Cablevision’s new “Freewheel” service would capitalize on the growth of Wi-Fi access points and on the desire of consumers to trim smart phone data charges through the use of Wi-Fi hot spots. Starting next month, current Cablevision subscribers will be able to sign up for unlimited Wi-Fi-based voice, data and text service at a monthly rate of $9.99. The same service will be offered to non-Cablevision customers at a monthly rate of $29.99.
Freewheel will be sold initially to customers in the New York market and will be expanded nationwide at a later date. Although the service is designed to work with only one smart phone model—the Motorola Moto G—Cablevision is said to be developing a smart phone app that would extend the service eventually to other wireless devices. Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Kristin Dolan told reporters that Freewheel will be targeted to customers who access Wi-Fi primarily through their offices or homes and to subscribers in search of low-cost wireless service options. Observing, “the big picture for us is the fundamental transformation in how people use their devices,” Dolan said, “we’re riding the wave, and Wi-Fi is the clear winner.”