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Today, many of the USA's cable operators are already passing settlement free phone traffic between one another. Now they are going to become a wireless operator without spectrum costs as the leading MSOs (Cox, Cablevision, Comcast, etc) announced a WiFi roaming offer that's designed to keep their customers connected.
My take. This idea is a long time coming and it clearly pits the MSOs against the wireless operators. It also means that the idea of WiFi offload is going to get very interesting. For example, if you subscribe to a video or music service that comes over your mobile phone, and now you're on a cable operator's WiFi network, will they let it pass if they offer the same content? Who gets the commercial insertions? We're talking big time rights issues and money.
For example, if you subscribe to MLB.com's ATBat on your iPAD to watch games that could be seen on your MLB plan from your cable company, who gets paid? Part of the revenue from MLB's subscription plan with cable goes to the MSO, but if you purchased it directly using your iTunes account, only Apple and MLB.com see the revenue.
We're going to see what pal Martin Geddes calls "sending party pays" rise up and start to take hold. Don't think for a minute the cable operators are going to let your baseball games, or your calls that should be on you mobile operators spectrum contrained networks ride for free forever. To me, this is a classic razor blade strategy where the MSO's will give their customers all the "free" access they want, but control the pipe in the middle and make money from both sides of the deal, the supplier and the consumer.