Cablevision Systems turned on its Freewheel Wi-Fi calling service, and began selling Freewheel phones.
Freewheel is a Wi-Fi-exclusive phone service providing unlimited data, talk and text. It is available on the Motorola Moto G smartphone, works anywhere in the world where Wi-Fi is accessible.
Cablevision and some of its cable peers have been deploying Wi-Fi in public places, and Comcast is in the process of segmenting the Wi-Fi resources in nearly every residential router it has installed so that they become dual-purpose private/public Wi-Fi hotspots, which should create wider, albeit patchy coverage, but compared to cellular coverage, Wi-Fi coverage is exceedingly limited and will remain so.
Most wireless calls are placed from some structure, however – a home, an office building, a restaurant. Monthly fees will be much lower: $9.95 a month for Optimum customers and $29.95 a month for everyone else. The company is currently supporting Motorola’s Moto G; it is selling the device at the discounted price of $99.95.
The company promised Freewheel will always be “all you can eat,” with no overage charges. The company will charge additional fees for international connectivity.
Cablevision is hoping that there will be a pool of potential customers who will find the trade-offs acceptable when it comes to voice calling.
But voice calling may not be the main point of the service. A tremendous amount of cellphone usage is not voice calling, but data access. A Wi-Fi-only approach could prove to be satisfactory for heavy data users.
“Cellular was built for voice and WiFi was built for data, which is why WiFi is the preferred choice for data usage today,” said Kristin Dolan, chief operating officer of Cablevision. “Freewheel integrates a high quality device backed by the strength of our professionally maintained carrier-grade WiFi network. As the thirst for data continues to grow. Freewheel provides consumers with a better, faster data experience, all at a fraction of the cost of cellular.”
T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi calling. AT&T and Verizon do not yet, though both intend to start sometime this year.
Cablevision characterized the types of users it thinks will find Freewheel attractive. They include people who:
- Spend their day in WiFi-rich environments, including colleges, offices and homes
- Overspend on data or constantly worry about staying within their expensive and restrictive cellular data limits
- Live in densely populated areas or other locales that suffer from poor cellular reception
- Are budget conscious or on a fixed income
- Are looking for the best first device for their children
- Do not want to sign multi-year contracts.