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Cox Joins Carrier Ethernet 2.0 Club

Alan Breznick

Earning another stripe on its uniform, Cox Business has received Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification from the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), putting it in position to offer more advanced Ethernet services to its commercial customers.

Cox Business, the commercial services arm of Cox Communications Inc. , thus becomes the third major US MSO business services unit to gain the Carrier Ethernet 2.0 blessing from MEF . Previously, the business divisions of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) won that stamp of approval, along with the commercial services arms of such smaller cable operators as RCN Corp. .

The Carrier Ethernet 2.0 accreditation means Cox can broaden the scope and range of Ethernet services that it can offer to commercial customers. Most notably, the advanced MEF standard enables broadband providers to offer multiple classes of services and interconnect with other broadband networks to deliver Ethernet services over larger geographic areas. "The latest MEF certification documents that we remain committed to delivering Ethernet services that extend basic requirements and provide businesses with the multiple location connectivity they need to reduce costs and increase productivity," said Steve Rowley, senior vice president of Cox Business, in a prepared statement.

The CE 2.0 certification is a nice shot in the arm for Cox Business, which has faded in the spotlight somewhat since former chief Phil Meeks left to head up Time Warner Cable's commercial services unit about a year ago. Although Cox Business, a long-time pioneer in the commercial services space, has continued to grow steadily, it has been overshadowed lately by the Comcast and TWC business units, which have been expanding their commercial efforts and revenues by leaps and bounds across their much bigger service areas. (See Comcast, TWC Boost Business WiFi .)

Most recently, for example, TW Cable leapfrogged over Cox to take over the top cable spot on Vertical Systems Group 's much-watched US Carrier Ethernet Leaderboard, pushing Cox down to sixth place overall in terms of Ethernet retail ports installed. And Comcast is coming up hard behind it, followed by the reinvigorated Charter Communications Inc. .

But Cox Business, which closed out 2013 with more than $1.6 billion in annual revenue and serves more than 330,000 companies in its footprint, remains undaunted. In an interview at the Cable Show in Los Angeles earlier this spring, Rowley told Light Reading that his unit continues to enjoy more than 10% growth in its four main segments -- small firms (one to 20 employees), middle market (21 to 99 employees), "large locals" (hospitals, universities, school systems, etc.), and carrier/wholesale.

Citing some figures, Rowley said Cox Business now offers Metro Ethernet service to 15,000 companies in its regions, serves more than 7,000 schools, and delivers mobile backhaul service to more than 5,000 cell towers. He also said his division remains on track to reach $2 billion in annual revenues by the end of 2016, a goal originally set by Meeks three years ago.

As part of its expansion efforts, Cox Business plans to introduce managed security and related services in the near future. Rowley said his division will soon conduct trials of managed routers with select customers to prepare for the service rollout. "That opens up another segment, another pie, for us to go after," he said.

Rowley also has high hopes for the deployment of small cells, which Cox Business will also be testing in the second half of the year. "I think it's going to be a large business," he said. "It could be similar to wireless backhaul."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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