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Cox MVNO with Verizon tripped up by T-Mobile

Cox Communications, one of the nation's largest cable companies, was planning to launch mobile services with Verizon sometime this month.

However, a judge's ruling – which was in reaction to a lawsuit from T-Mobile – appears to have thrown that plan into chaos.

"We respect Judge Zurn's ruling," Cox spokesman Todd Smith wrote in response to questions from Light Reading, referring to a ruling by Judge Morgan Zurn of the Delaware Court of Chancery. "While it wasn't what we hoped, we will move forward in the best interest of our company and our customers."

It's unclear what might happen next. Cox declined to comment on the situation beyond its brief statement. However, based on a number of news reports, it appears that Cox's problems stem from a lawsuit filed by T-Mobile that ultimately upended Cox's plans to re-enter the mobile industry.

Specifically, according to analyst Roger Entner with Recon Analytics and an article from Law360, Cox was required to negotiate with Sprint for a potential return to the mobile industry. Indeed, Light Reading reported last year that the cable company was preparing to launch mobile services. Doing so would put Cox alongside its fellow cable companies Charter Communications and Comcast, which both currently offer mobile services through an MVNO with Verizon.

However, according to reports, Cox was required to negotiate first with Sprint for its return to the mobile industry. That's likely because Cox briefly launched mobile services via Sprint in 2010, but shuttered that effort just a year later. T-Mobile acquired Sprint last year, and as a result T-Mobile conducted the negotiations with Cox for a potential MVNO.

But, according to Entner, T-Mobile did not provide competitive MVNO prices. That pushed Cox to seek other MVNO options, and it eventually settled on an MVNO deal with Verizon. However, Cox's new MVNO deal with Verizon prompted T-Mobile to file a lawsuit against the cable company, arguing Cox did not negotiate "in good faith."

In the new ruling, Judge Zurn of the Delaware Court of Chancery sided with T-Mobile on the topic, forcing Cox to halt its plans to launch mobile services by piggybacking on Verizon's network.

"It looks like a pattern is emerging at @TMobile that is counter to what it promised to @FCC and @DepartmentofJ to be friendly to MVNOs," Entner wrote on Twitter, pointing to T-Mobile's 2019 agreement with the Department of Justice that included an MVNO component.

Continued Entner: "Actions like this by @TMobile make it hard to be sympathetic to them and give @dish Charlie Ergen's arguments more weight about who's the bad guy in their scuffle."

Dish became an MVNO of T-Mobile under the 2019 DoJ agreement, but has argued that T-Mobile is acting in an anti-competitive fashion.

Officials from T-Mobile and Dish did not immediately respond to questions from Light Reading about the new Cox ruling.

That Cox is working to enter the mobile industry doesn't come as a surprise. For example, as Light Reading reported last month, Cox recently hired longtime wireless networking executive GS Sickand as its new VP of wireless engineering. The company also recently posted job openings for a variety of mobile- and wireless-focused positions, including mobile device product managers, wireless analysts and smartphone technology managers.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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