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‘Tornado’ Offers Controversial Spin On Cable TV Competition

PROVIDER MOUNTS WI-FI ASSAULT ON U.S. MILITARY BASES (UPDATED) 12/09/2013 12:00 AM Eastern

Another battle is forming on cable’s competitive front, with a rival gearing up to invade and occupy many of the nation’s military installations.

Endeka Group, a company acquired by Boingo Wireless in February, has developed a multiscreen, subscription-based Internet-protocol video service called “Tornado” that is delivered entirely over managed Wi-Fi networks. Its first point of deployment is Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in San Diego County, Calif., where Cox Communications is the incumbent operator.

According to a source familiar with the deployment, Camp Pendleton issued a request for proposal to deliver Wi-Fi-fed Internet and video services to the facility’s barracks about three years ago, and Endeka came out on top.

The Camp Pendleton rollout is just the tip of the spear, as a fully-fledged military services operation is underway.

DEPLOYMENTS UNDERWAY

Last month, Boingo announced an expanded agreement with the Marine Corps Community Services to provide IPTV and broadband services at all U.S. Marines bases worldwide, starting with all U.S. bases and two facilities in Japan. Boingo recently coupled that with a pact with the U.S. Army and Air Force to provide similar service packages on several large installations, including Fort Bliss (El Paso, Texas), Fort Benning (just outside of Columbus, Ga.), Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri Ozarks), Fort Campbell (Kentucky/Tennessee border) and Fort Irwin (San Bernardino County, Calif.), with launches expected to get underway as soon as the first quarter of 2014.

While Tornado presents a new competitor to MSOs, the way Endeka is packaging video services at Camp Pendleton is raising eyebrows — and causing some programmers to wonder privately if Tornado is overstepping its distribution rights.

At Camp Pendleton, Tornado offers up to 91 channels — including broadcast stations premium packages from Starz, HBO and Showtime, and a network-based DVR service — to an array of devices, including a Tornado-supplied IP set-top, PCs, iOS- and Androidpowered tablets and smartphones.

DAILY, WEEKLY PACKAGES

Tornado customers can purchase video packages in daily, weekly, monthly or three-month increments. Tornado doesn’t offer a daily option for premium video services, but it allows customers to buy a week of HBO (HBO, HBO2 and Cinemax) or Showtime (Showtime, SHO 2 and The Movie Channel) for $3.95, and a package of Starz channels (Starz, West, Starz Cinema and Encore) for $4.95. The daily TV option (base price $5.95), one source explained, essentially turns Monday Night Football on ESPN and Thursday Night Football on NFL Network into “pay-per-view events.”

At press time, several programmers contacted by Multichannel News were reserving official comment until they could complete their review of the Tornado service offering. ESPN declined to comment.

Boingo said Tornado sources a portion of its content and distribution rights from the National Telco Television Consortium and other portions through direct relationships with programmers

“In some cases, programmers have allowed for short-term plans, and encrypted, residential-only delivery to the mobile devices that the service members have with them in the barracks,” Boingo vice president of business development Tim Rout said in a statement to Multichannel News. “We have designed our service to accommodate those allowances. In other cases, agreements restrict delivery of IPTV to set-top-boxes on traditional monthly plans. Likewise, our service has been designed with those restrictions in mind. Through Boingo’s agreements with some programmers, both directly and through NTTC, various options are becoming available to these service members that were previously unavailable to them."

In addition to residential plans for individuals in the barracks, the Tornado service "also also offers bulk IPTV service to organizations and business on bases, further increasing content delivery footprint where it was lacking in the past. Based on our agreements with NTTC and the guidance they have provided on implementation, Boingo believes it is in compliance with programming agreements," Rout added.

TAKEAWAY

“Tornado,” a Wi-Fi programming service aimed at U.S. military bases, is prompting some programmers to wonder privately if their distribution rights are under threat.

September