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A Cable-Modem Trial Offer

Operators can now mimic the marketing strategy used so successfully by AOL: Allowing consumers who buy a cable modem at retail an opportunity to hook up the technology for a free trial of high-speed data service.

Next Generation Broadband has added the free-trial functionality to the Auto Install automated subscriber-activation system it developed. The original auto install product is already in use, most notably by Cox Communications Inc.

The new modules allow new potential subscribers to set up a broadband connection without any operator intervention. Consumers would have to acquire a modem, either from their cable provider or in a store, and then either run a splitter from their existing video connection, or reconnect the cable from their television to their computer.

The software directs the consumer to an Internet browser and into Next Generation’s Web site, where they are guided through the activation in less than 10 minutes.

Behind the scenes, the program verifies the billing information, sets up the user ID, password and e-mail address, configures the modem and activates the service.

Next Generation noted that the auto-install program is based in the network, so it needs no client software or customized middleware. No cable-modem preprovisioning is necessary. The system can handle more than 10,000 activations a day, according to NGB.

Martin Hannes, CEO of NGB, said the company is in discussions with Cox regarding possible implementation of the free trial option. He added that some operators are considering mailing modems to video consumers with the free trial option. Modem and mailing costs, along with the free install technology, are cheaper than other customer acquisition campaigns, he asserted.

Affiliates have the option to set the length of the trial, and whether the duration is a number of days or user hours.

NGB is asking operators to pay an upfront licensing fee for its Auto Install program, plus a charge per incremental user.