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Cox takes on telcos with wireless service

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Cable company Cox Communications today announced plans to launch a wireless service over its own 3G wireless network in 2009, potentially creating a regional wireless powerhouse that could offer a multiservice bundle to compete with AT&T and Verizon. The wireless service will initially be available over Sprint’s network as part of a bundle of digital cable, high-speed Internet and wireline phone service. Cox also said it will have its own 3G wireless network up and running in its cable service area next year. At that time, Sprint will provide roaming outside of those regions.

An aggressive wireless move by Cox would level the playing field with AT&T and Verizon, which are deep into their rollouts of television services, U-verse and FiOS, respectively. The third largest cableco in the U.S., Cox has six million customers today. According to the company, more than 64% of these customers buy multiple services, with one-third subscribing to all three products. Cox was the first cableco to add phone service to the bundle of voice, video and data in 1997, following the 1996 Telecom Act.

Cox will also test 4G technology using long-term evolution (LTE), the company said. Unlike fellow cablecos Bright House Networks, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Cox is not participating in Clearwire’s new WiMAX venture, which will merge its WiMAX operations with Sprint. Cox, however, has tied up with Sprint in numerous times in the past. Cox built and operated a cellular network covering Southern California and Las Vegas in 1990, but it sold that to Sprint in 1999. In 2005, it joined Sprint’s now defunct Pivot venture, which as SpectrumCo purchased Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum in 2006. Under Pivot, Cox launched a bundled wireless cable service, but it canceled the program after failing to attract customer interest. At least initially, Cox’s new wireless plan resembles that of Pivot, with Cox essentially reselling the Sprint service, but its future plans to build its own wireless network are far more ambitious.

Bill Ho, research director of wireless services for Current Analysis, said that Pivot fell apart because it was about data, not voice, and it was likely each participant had its own disparate agenda. It comes down to owner’s economics, he said, and Cox wanted to control its own destiny.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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