Is Cablevision’s $10 Mobile Wi-Fi Service a Good Deal?
The average American household spends more than $1,600 a year on cell phone service, so it’s no surprise that families are looking for ways to control costs.
Therefore, based in New Yorkwhich was launched last week, looks so appealing. Cablevision, the first major cable operator to launch such a service, offers unlimited calls, texts and data for less than the price of a movie ticket in New York. The service is aimed at people on a budget and aims to provide families with an inexpensive option for a child’s first smartphone service.
But Cablevision isn’t the only company seeing family wireless budgets under pressure. Major mobile phone companies have recently revised their service offerings to create more attractive family plans. And the little upstarts also offer services at very reduced prices.
Still, Cablevision’s decision could shake up the wireless industry, as it marks the cable industry’s first foray into the mobile phone market. But can he really compete?
That’s the question I answer in this edition of Ask Maggie.
I have a few tweens at home who are itchy for smartphones. I hesitated to buy smartphones from them, because even with a family plan, the cost is quite high. I heard about Cablevision’s $10 per month plan, which seems like a good deal. Is it as good a deal as it looks?
mom on a budget
Dear Budget Mom,
that’s a great question. I agree that $9.95 a month seems like a bargain when you consider that the average US household spends about $139 a month on cell phone service, according to JD Power and Associates. But once you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that this service has some serious limitations. And once you compare it to other offerings from established wireless competitors as well as smaller outfits, you’ll see that the $9.95 price tag isn’t such a bargain after all.
Let’s first see what you get for Freewheel’s $9.95 service:
- Unlimited data
- Unlimited calls and texts from anywhere in the world
- No annual contract
Sounds awesome, right? After all, the two biggest wireless carriers in the US no longer offer unlimited data. And even the smaller players have hidden caps on their services. For example, T-Mobile does not charge customers when they exceed their monthly data usage. Instead, it slows down access.
Freewheel has no data caps and there is no throttling or slowing down of the service. But before you get excited about Freewheel, there are a few limitations of the service that you should consider.
The first major limitation is that the service only works in Wi-Fi hotspots. This might be fine if you spend all of your time in places with Wi-Fi, like your office, home, or school. Cablevision also claims to have 1.1 million Wi-Fi hotspots that Freewheel customers can use automatically and freely. But the service does not provide access to customers when they are outside a Wi-Fi hotspot.
It could be a deal breaker for you if you give your kids cell phones so they can call you from baseball practice to pick them up or if you want them to have a way to reach you in an emergency , no matter where they are .
Even with the hotspots promised by Cablevision, the reality is that Wi-Fi isn’t everywhere. In contrast, cell service is usually all around you. What this means for potential customers of Cablevision’s Freewheel service is that the price may be attractive, but you are very limited in where you can use the service.
The other major limitation of the service is that currently only one smartphone works with the service: Motorola’s Moto G. This is a fantastic budget smartphone. I am a big fan of Motorola Android phones. And Cablevision offers a version of the device at a significant discount. The Moto G typically sells for $180. Cablevision is offering it for just 0 contract-free. Keep in mind that an out-of-contract iPhone 6 costs $650.
The main disadvantage of this limitation is that you are forced to buy a new smartphone for your children. You can’t just give your kids your used smartphones.
When you consider these limitations and start comparing the service to competing Wi-Fi calling services such as Republic Wireless, Freedom Pop, and Scratch Wireless, the $9.95 deal doesn’t seem that great. The deal is even worse if you don’t live in Cablevision territory or don’t subscribe to Cablevision’s Optimum broadband service. Without an Optimum subscription, Freewheel costs $30 per month.
Take Republic Wireless as an example. You can get the same deal of unlimited talk, text, and data when you’re on Wi-Fi for $5 a month from Republic Wireless. It’s half the price of what Cablevision offers for an almost identical service. And for just $5 more per month, you can receive unlimited voice calls and text messages even when you’re not in a Wi-Fi hotspot. How? Republic customers who subscribe to this service can roam free on Sprint’s wireless network. If you’re willing to pay $25 a month, you can also access Sprint’s data network when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
FreedomPop and Scratch Wireless have similar offerings that let customers roam over a cellular network when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
Similar to Cablevision’s offering, these other services typically only work with a small set of smartphones. For example, Republic Wireless’ service only works with three main phones: Moto X, Moto E, and Moto G. They’re all good phones, but the fact that you can’t bring your own device to the service is a limitation. . So far, only FreedomPop lets you bring a phone to its Wi-Fi calling service.
How does Freewheel compare to the big guys?
When you sit down and do the math, the service also might not be much more expensive than just adding your kids to your existing cell phone plan. Take AT&T as an example. Add a smartphone to an existing one Mobile sharing plan on AT&T can cost you as little as $15 per month. (If you subscribe to 10GB or more of data per month, the price to add a smartphone that uses AT&T’s Next contract-free plan is only $15 per month. It’s $25 per month to add a smartphone on AT&T Next if you subscribe to a data plan less than 10 GB.)
This means that for some families who are already subscribed to AT&T’s service and who use 10 GB of data, which for a family of four is about 2.5 GB of data per person per month, adding of a smartphone user is only $5 more per month than it would cost if you subscribed to Cablevision’s Freewheel service, provided you are a Cablevision broadband subscriber. If you’re not, the AT&T plan could actually save you $15 a month.
If you and your husband are already subscribers to Sprint tried to sweeten the deals for families by offering a 20 GB shared data family plan for $100 per month, which allows you to add up to 10 smartphones., adding additional lines will only cost $10 per line, regardless of the data plan you subscribe to.
Once you consider the fact that the Freewheel service only provides mobile access over a Wi-Fi network, family plans from major wireless carriers, even the traditionally expensive plans from AT&T and Verizon, look like better deals. . Also, if you opt for traditional mobile service, you may not need to buy new phones for your children to add to your service plan. They can use used phones as long as they are compatible with your carrier’s network.
The bottom line is that while Cablevision’s $9.95 mobile plan seems like a good deal, you can easily find cheaper options that give you better coverage from competitors.