Light Reading

The Great Cable Spectrum Speculation

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Let the guessing games begin.

After nearly a handful of parties with ties to the cable industry bid for and won some valuable spectrum in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 700 MHz auctions, the next question is: What might they do with it?

The first, most likely answer is that they will spend the necessary dollars for a wireless network buildout and then offer wireless services to their cable TV customers.

Cox Communications Inc. , bidding as Cox Wireless Inc., won 14 Block A and eight Block B licenses for bids totaling just north of $304 million. (See Cox Waxes Wireless .) The locations of those licenses match up well with the operator's traditional hardwired cable footprint in markets such as San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. (See table below for a complete breakdown.)

Table 1: Cox's Spectrum Lineup

Market Frequency Block Winning Bid
Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va. A $18.8M
Macon, Ga. A $2.6M
Pensacola, Fla. A $19.4M
New Orleans, La. A $15.1M
Baton Rouge, La. A $9.5M
Fayetteville, Ark. A $6.1M
Omaha, Neb. A $5.7M
Wichita, Kan. A $7.8M
Topeka, Kan. A $1.7M
Tulsa, Okla. A $15.6M
Las Vegas, Nev. A $30.9M
Phoenix/Mesa, Ariz. A $53.04M
Tucson, Ariz. A $5.5M
San Diego, Calif. A $84.1M
Virginia (Caroline) B $619,000
Louisiana (Iberville) B $1.4M
Arkansas (Madison) B $979,000
Ocala, Fla. B $6.1M
Gainesville, Fla. B $8.06M
Fort Smith, Ark./Okla. B $5.7M
Roanoke, Va. B $2.3M
Lafayette, La. B $2.96M
Source: FCC data

Vulcan Spectrum LLC, an outfit linked to Paul Allen, the chairman of Charter Communications Inc. , netted two Block A licenses in the Pacific Northwest (Portland-Salem; and Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton) for a total of $112 million.

But winning bids weren't limited to major MSOs or companies that also happen to be corporate cousins of major MSOs.

Bresnan Communications LLC put up a total of $3.8 million to obtain Block A licenses in Billings and Great Falls, Mont., and a Block B license for the state.

BendBroadband of Oregon also locked in a Block B license for $6.74 million.

Now what?
None of these companies have said what they might do with the spectrum and when they might act on those plans. For this article, officials for Cox and BendBroadband declined comment.

Based on the amount of spectrum it bid for and won, Cox is positioned to make the most significant moves in this group. But what Cox might do is still anybody's guess, and right now the guess is that the company will build out a wireless network of its own and turn it into a launching pad for wireless broadband services, at least for starters.

"Data is their biggest advantage," Alan Breznick, senior analyst for Heavy Reading, says of Cox. "I think they want to be the total broadband provider in their markets, for both wired and wireless."

If Cox does opt to build out a wireless network, it's likely that it will first concentrate on its larger markets and those areas where it had to put up the most money to win spectrum. In order, the top five in those combined categories are: San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Pensacola, Fla., and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va. New Orleans also fits into Cox's higher profile properties.

How rapidly and broadly Cox might act is still unknown. While Cox is among the most active MSOs when it comes to wireless backhaul services, it, along with some partners, has not expressed any concrete plans concerning some spectrum won almost two years ago.

Cox is a member of SpectrumCo, a cable consortium that won a batch of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum in the fall of 2006. The other active members are Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Bright House Networks parent Advance/Newhouse. (See SpectrumCo Gets Licenses .) Cox is also a partner in the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)-cable joint venture, but the long-term potential of the JV has been questioned ever since expansion of the "Pivot" service was halted last November. (See Sprint Halts 'Pivot' Expansion.)

With this new spectrum, Cox "can control its own destiny in its own markets without having to kowtow later," an industry observer says.

As a privately held company, Cox can apply money to this project without having to worry about Wall Street's objections to increased spending. To the relief of those who feared a capital-intensive wireless infrastructure buildout, Comcast and Time Warner Cable stayed clear of the 700 MHz auction.

But that doesn’t mean an operator like Comcast is out of the 700 MHz picture, thanks in part to stipulations tied to the "open" C Block. A top industry analyst, following a meeting with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and CFO Michael Angelakis, suggested recently that "in an open access world, Comcast would envision itself as a network-agnostic application." (See Trading Places .) That approach could eventually open up mobile access opportunities for Internet-based content services like Fancast. (See Comcast Fires Up Fancast.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to the Tower Technology Summit, a conference focused on the infrastructure that drives technical innovation in the wireless industry. Collocated with the industry's largest wireless event, CTIA, in Las Vegas, April 1-2, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
From The Founder
Steve Saunders provides an overview of white box networking and introduces a new "slim line" version of the OSI 7-layer model.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
Centec on Ethernet Switching

11|26|15   |   09:58   |   (0) comments

Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
LRTV Custom TV
Delivering Service Agility in the Virtualization Era

11|25|15   |   5.41   |   (0) comments

Interview with Massimo Fatato, WW OSS Business Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Wagner’s Ring
How Might Open Source Fail?

11|24|15   |     |   (10) comments

Open source, SDN, and NFV are looking inevitable – but performance, standards proliferation and regulatory capture could derail the movement.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Lifecycle Orchestration – a Fresh Vision for Telco

11|23|15   |   6.40   |   (0) comments

Simon Osborne, CTO Comptel, and Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell reveal the business impacts of new SDN and NFV, and what the term service orchestration actually means. Together they define Lifecycle Service Orchestration and how the virtualized future will look for telecoms operators.
Between the CEOs
Cisco's Virtual Role in Saudi

11|20|15   |   12:15   |   (2) comments

Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Leads With Kubernetes for Cloud PaaS

11|19|15   |   08:26   |   (0) comments

Huawei is looking to Kubernetes as a key tool for building robust open source technologies for customers and partners, said Ying Xiong, chief architect of cloud platform at Huawei, in an interview with Light Reading West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner at the recent Kubecon conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
WiC in London: The Highlight Reel

11|19|15   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

NetCracker's Mervat El Dabae headlines an inspiring morning in London with help from leading women from Vodafone, TalkTalk, Hyperoptics and Ciena.
LRTV Documentaries
Why Saudi's So Hot for New Tech

11|19|15   |   05:07   |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders reports from Saudi Arabia, a hyper-competitive market desperate to embrace the next generation of communications technologies and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Why Data Models Deliver More Value Than Information Models

11|19|15   |   5.08   |   (0) comments

Stefan Vallin argues that more automation is needed to manage end-to-end services and the hybrid networks they run on, and that data models are key to achieving this.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
SDN Management & Orchestration in the WAN

11|17|15   |   7.20   |   (0) comments

Carol Wilson and Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu discuss CSPs' SDN service delivery and assurance requirements. Learn about a modular approach to building automated control, orchestration and management functions for the WAN that are policy- and analytics-driven.
LRTV Custom TV
Flash Networks: Optimizing for Radio Spectral Efficiency

11|17|15   |   3:34   |   (0) comments

Today most optimization vendors only focus on optimizing voice or data. Ofer Gottfried, Flash Networks' CTO, shows how improving data throughput and maximizing spectral efficiency reduces capital and operating expenses while also providing a platform for user engagement.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Pay-TV User Experiences Millennial-Friendly

11|16|15   |   6:42   |   (0) comments

The unique challenge of reaching and engaging Millennials is driving pay-TV video experience transformation that can include higher quality UIs, viewing of multiple content streams at once and seamless transitions between handheld devices and the television.
Allot MobileTrends Report H2/2015 reveals how daily online behavior can be used to discover smarter ways to profile customers and propose valuable, real-time offers to them.
Hot Topics
Samsung to Sell Wireless Networking Unit?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/23/2015
Samsung: No Sale of Wireless Unit
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/25/2015
How Might Open Source Fail?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/24/2015
Sprint to Get $1.2B From New Leasing Venture
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/23/2015
Networking Shines in HP's Gloomy Final Earnings
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/25/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
December 15, 2015
Virtualizing Cable Services
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
Cats with Phones
Can't Find the Phone on Thanksgiving? Click Here
Check under the cat! (hint: bottom right)
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.