Participants in a panel discussion at the Cable Show ’09 in Washington, D.C. last Friday outlined divergent strategies for the entry of cable companies into the U.S. wireless sector, where cable operators envision opportunities for subscribers to enjoy core voice, video, and data services beyond the confines of their homes. At the panel sessions dubbed “Air Play – Cable’s Wide Open Wireless Future,” representatives of Time Warner Cable (TWC), Cablevision, and Cox Communications voiced consensus on the advantage of keeping their customers from shifting to alternative service providers once they leave their homes. The companies, however, intend to take different approaches in achieving that goal. Acknowledging that, as soon as cable subscribers “open the door, you sort of get disassociated with your customer,” Mike Roudi, the vice president of wireless for TWC, said cable operators need to adopt “an inside-out strategy” to keeping their subscribers hooked up on the go with wireless offerings that extend the in-home service package marketed traditionally by cable providers. To that end, TWC has invested alongside other major cable MSOs in the Clearwire venture, which is deploying a nationwide wireless broadband network based on WiMax technology. Noting that Clearwire is on track to launch service during the fourth quarter of this year, Roudi said the venture will first focus on providing data service and will later phase in wireless voice services that TWC will be able to market to its customers. Cablevision has taken a similar approach on a smaller scale with its $300 million investment in Wi-Fi hotspots that would serve high-traffic areas such as shopping malls and commuter train stations and that, according to company official John Bickham, would serve as an extension of Cablevision’s network beyond the home. Cox, meanwhile, plans a more ambitious approach with the deployment of its own wireless network that would operate on frequencies won by the company in the 700 MHz auction. According to Cox Wireless Vice President Stephen Bye, the lessons learned through Cox’s participation in the now-defunct Pivot wireless venture with Sprint drove home the desirability of Cox’s maintaining full control of its own wireless service. Proclaiming that the network will enable Cox to fulfill its goal of offering customers a quadruple-play package of video, fixed-line telephony, broadband, and wireless services, Bye added that his company is also considering the establishment of a mobile software store akin to that offered by Apple, Inc. to iPhone customers, declaring: “we don’t want to be at a . . . disadvantage with what’s already out there.”