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Cablevision Plots Freewheel App Attack

Freewheel, Cablevision Systems’ new WiFi-only phone service, is currently limited to the Android-powered Moto G smartphone, but could soon be marketed as a paid app on a broader array of devices, including Apple iPhones.

Cablevision is developing a paid Freewheel app that could launch later this year, Gregg Seibert, Cablevision’s vice chairman, said Monday at the Deutsche Bank’s Media, Internet & Telecom Conference investor conference.

Seibert didn’t reveal an exact launch date or expected pricing on the app, but said the idea of a paid Freewheel app is “something that I think is another way of trying to differentiate the network and get away from all the hyperbole around price.”  Rather than focusing on a $79.99 per month triple play with a Visa card attached to it, “we’re trying to shift that dialogue. But, certainly, consumers still do react to price.”

Freewheel, he added, “should really help to highlight the value of WiFi to our customer base.”

Cablevision’s Freewheel service went live on February 5, available to the MSO’s high-speed Internet customers for $9.95 per month and $29.95 per month for everyone else.  Cablevision offers the Moto G for the partially-subsidized price of $99.95.

Siebert, pressed on why Cablevision opted to start with a WiFi-only service rather than tying it to cellular via an MVNO relationship, reiterated the position that Freewheel is positioned as a data/video product, and that voice will be one of the least-used features of the phone.

In that light, “there really isn’t a need for an MVNO…We’re not actively considering an MVNO at this point.”

But he later acknowledged that there’s “always the possibility that our offering will evolve, but right now we’re comfortable with the WiFi-only nature of the product.”

Cablevision has not announced any subscriber figures for the new product, but Siebert said the operator has been selling units outside the confines of its cable systems.

“We’ve had orders from a number of areas that actually fairly far from our footprint,” he said, later noting that Freewheel will be one of several new WiFi-facing initiatives coming from Cablevision.

As for Cablevision’s WiFi buildout, that’s a top priority for the cable operator, as the plan is to build it out to the point that “it’s virtually ubiquitous within our footprint.”