big cable multisystem operators
(MSOs) and between the MSOs
and Verizon Wireless took on
new dimensions during The Cable
Show last month.
More significantly, these cooperative/
competitive deals for mobile
and wireless video services
pose major implications in the ongoing spectrum
battle for airwaves and for viewers’ attention.
Verizon’s video search service “Viewdini,” which
the company opted to unveil at the Cable Show,
consortium of large MSOs, pave the way for more
viewing on mobile handsets and tablets, potentially
drawing eyeballs away from mobile digital television
Viewdini is a mobile video portal that will aggregate
and deliver mobile content including Netflix,
Hulu, mSpot (a Samsung cloud-based media content
provider), plus movie and TV sites to Android
devices. It will be available on 4G LTE (“Long Term
Evolution” format) handsets, said Verizon Wireless
President/CEO Dan Mead.
Viewdini will offer content from cable networks
as well as shows that are available via Verizon’s
FiOS TV service, allowing customers
to search for, and watch content from
services to which they
subscribe. The Android
app will be free, but wireless
customers will pay for
usage fees for downloads
based on their Verizon
Wireless data allowance.
“We saw the capacity
of the LTE network,” Mead
said. “We saw the hunger
of consumers to get this
[content] whenever they
wanted on whatever device
Separately, five of the
Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision Systems
and BrightHouse Networks—are
launching a collaborative Wi-Fi system
that will eventually have 50,000 hotspots,
covering much of America’s biggest cities.
Cable Wi-Fi will allow authenticated customers
of any participating MSO to use
the Wi-Fi facilities of the cable company
outside the home.
Citing the “profound implications” of
this nationwide cable wireless service,
Craig Moffett, telecommunications analyst
at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said, “The
unique usage characteristics of wireless
networks leave the door open for a potentially
very disruptive Wi-Fi first service.”
More than 38 million high-speed data
cable customers will be able to use the
service, according to a Wells Fargo Securities
analysis. The first markets to get Cable
Wi-Fi service are New York City (and surrounding
tri-state area), Los Angeles, Philadelphia
and Tampa and Orlando, Fla.
The Cable Show's "App Pond" at Imagine Park offered a live showcase for newly developed applications playing over tablets, smartphones and other connected devices.
The Cable Wi-Fi system will, among
other things, enable cable subscribers
to watch streamed TV shows and movies
via Wi-Fi (thus not incurring network
data charges) when they are away from
home—a competitive feature versus Verizon’s
Offering Cable Wi-Fi service for subscribers
outside the home might be more
appealing than trying to find a local broadcast channel if a viewer’s handset or tablet
actually has an mDTV tuner/receiver.
Some analysts see Verizon’s Viewdini
offering as a next-generation successor to
its VCAST service, using the greater bandwidth
capacity of its 4G network. At the
same time, the Viewdini deal brings Verizon
Wireless closer to the cable TV infrastructure,
especially on the programming side.
Verizon already has an MSO connection
through its pending acquisition of
the airwaves of SpectrumCo, the consortium
of big cable TV operators. Long before
that deal took shape, Verizon made
clear its major plans for mobile video services
coming this year.
These alliances, not surprisingly, won
the support of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
During an on-stage interview
with his predecessor and current NCTA
President/CEO Michael Powell, Genachowski
commended the industry:
“Cable has been leading the way in innovating
around Wi-Fi,” Genachowski said,
who also commended the industry for
helping to relieve the spectrum crunch.
Verizon's Viewdini App
WIRELESS AND CROSS-OVER
The wireless and cross-over agenda at
The Cable Show took many forms. Comcast
announced X1, a cloud-enabled TV
platform targeted to multiplatform “integrated
entertainment experiences,” as the
company describes it. The X1 platform
uses IP technology to deliver interactivity,
custom apps and social media features
with Comcast’s traditional video services.
Comcast also introduced “multiscreen
telephony,” as some analysts characterized
the new “Voice2go”service. Comcast’s
plan is to move home phone service onto
devices more commonly associated with
multiscreen video, such as PCs, tablets,
laptops, and smartphones. Among the
bandwidth-related features: “Voice2go”
would offload cellphone traffic to Wi-Fi
networks and enable free calling.
Separately from Verizon Wireless’s
Viewdini service, Comcast introduced the
“Xfinity TV Android experience” via a new
Xfinity TV Player app—part of the move
toward IP television from the MSOs.
Michael Powell (L), President and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski
The app brings 10,000 hours of the
on-demand video-streaming content to
Xfinity TV digital customers with Android
devices (Versions 2.3/Gingerbread and
above); customers will be able to watch
video on smartphones and tablets using
3G, 4G or Wi-Fi connection.
This growing collection of competitive/
collaborative ventures plus the accelerating
attention to wireless service, even
among the traditionally tethered MSOs,
indicate increased bandwidth battles.
They also augur consumer confusion as
viewers must choose which screens and
which providers to patronize.
It looks like “wireless + cable,” but it’s
still all about the bandwidth and who
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen
Communications LLC, a media/telcom
research firm. He can be reached at