Demise of SkyCable is opportunity for TDS Telecom

Demise of SkyCable is opportunity for TDS Telecom

Madison, Wis. – The demise of SkyCable in Madison could be a gain for TDS Telecom, which expects to purchase the defunct company’s wireless Internet spectrum as soon as it can get FCC approval.
“We’ve not had an opportunity like this for some time,” said TDS spokeswoman DeAnne Boegli. She emphasized that TDS did not purchase SkyCable TV, which closed shop on Friday, only the spectrum, which extends 35 miles out of Madison from a shared communications tower on the city’s west side.
For the City of Madison, however, which has hoped to develop a publicly accessible wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) network covering Madison and the Dane County Regional Airport, it is a minor setback. SkyCable TV’s planned partner in the Madison wireless project, America Online, withdrew from the plan in August.
“We’re still moving forward with that,” said George Twigg, spokesman for Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. “We’re in the process of evaluating options and will know in the next few weeks. It’s still something the mayor believes we should do.”
AOL-SkyCable was one of three bidders for the Madison project.
Wi-Fi is a contraction of “wireless fidelity.” It promises broadband access speeds at range, though in practice radio interference and walls can lower speeds to a more modest level.
TDS is now conducting trials of a Wi-Fi network in the Fox Valley area of northeastern Wisconsin, but there are no immediate plans to offer the service in Madison, according to TDS representatives. “TDS only grows based on what it can actually support from a revenue and cash flow standpoint,” said Mark Bowen, a TDS Metrocom communications manager based in Lansing, Mich. “We don’t speculate on customers.”
Added Boegli: “It’s almost impossible to say what it means at this point. We’ve purchased the spectrum and will do some product testing.”
SkyCable’s closure speaks somewhat about the challenges of Wi-Fi deployment, he added. “If you can’t cast your net widely enough, particularly at early stages, you can’t gather enough customers,” Bowen said.
Before it closed shop, SkyCable TV was in the business of using microwave transmissions to deliver TV services similar to basic cable. The company had 6,000 subscribers as of January 2002, according to press reports.
Its website now contains a brief statement announcing that it has closed shop, and thanks customers for their patronage.
TDS Telecom is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Telephone and Data Systems, Inc., which provides communication services to nearly 6 million local and cellular telephone customers across the country. TDS Telecom operates under the brand name TDS Metrocom and which serves more than 426,000 access line equivalents in five states, including Wisconsin.
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Katherine Esposito is the senior staff writer for WTN in Madison. She can be reached at kathy@wistechnology.com.