Cox places CBRS bet in Vegas

Cox Communications announced this week that it will build a small-scale 4G LTE wireless network for the city of Las Vegas to test a public-safety monitoring system.

And though the announcement is a relatively minor one for the company in the grand scheme of things, it nonetheless further hints at Cox's ambitions in the wireless networking arena. Those ambitions appeared to solidify a bit more after longtime wireless networking executive GS Sickand disclosed on LinkedIn that he is the new VP of wireless engineering for Cox.

Sickand noted on LinkedIn that he's "responsible for developing a 5G centric wireless network architecture to support all wireless use cases and then deliver on this network vision with a network deployment that will be engineered for the future to enable the flexibility to deliver on new wireless business processes and network convergence by leveraging the latest technology developments."

Sickand is a high-profile name in the wireless industry, having worked for more than a decade at vendors Nortel and then, later, Ericsson. Sickand spent the past year or so as the VP of technology for open RAN vendor Mavenir.

Cox officials were not immediately available to comment on Sickand's new job within the company, the nation's third-largest cable provider.

Cox's wireless hires

Sickand is the latest executive with experience in the wireless industry to join Cox. For example, the company several months ago posted job openings for a variety of mobile- and wireless-focused positions, including mobile device product managers, wireless analysts and smartphone technology managers.

One opening, for director of strategic wireless partnerships, specifically sought "technical and market knowledge in wireless." Interestingly, a former AT&T executive with experience handling the company's partnership with iPhone vendor Apple appears to have been recently hired by Cox for that exact position, based on his LinkedIn profile.

Moreover, a number of industry sources who declined to be named have said that the cable company is preparing to offer some kind of commercial wireless service. Doing so would not come as a surprise considering Cox peers Altice USA, Charter Communications and Comcast all already offer mobile services. Charter and Comcast do so via an MVNO with Verizon, while Altice USA operates an MVNO with T-Mobile.

Cox officials have previously acknowledged the company's growing interest in wireless. "We believe the market is becoming more attractive for us to enter the wireless space and we are exploring it more aggressively now, but have not announced any specific plans," company spokesperson Todd Smith wrote in response to questions from Light Reading last year. "We have not entered into any MVNO agreements yet."

Cox was among several cable companies that spent hundreds of millions of dollars on 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum licenses in the FCC's spectrum auction last year.

A CBRS network in Vegas

That's the same spectrum Cox is using in its new work with the city of Las Vegas. Specifically, the company announced it would leverage its existing agreement with the city and its fiber network in the area to install video cameras and sensors on light poles throughout Baker Park in central Las Vegas. The sensors will connect to a three-sector cell site in the park using CBRS spectrum.

A Cox official said the company is using the unlicensed portion of the CBRS spectrum band for its effort in Las Vegas, not its licensed holdings. The official declined to answer any questions about Cox's potential plans to build a commercial wireless network.

It's important to note that Cox, through its various divisions including Cox Business and Cox2M, has previously constructed wireless networks for customers. For example, the company in 2016 announced it helped to install a wireless network inside the Las Vegas Convention Center that it said "can be equipped for upcoming (5G) cellular technology once these services are offered to the public and subscriber equipment becomes available."

Cox ran its own mobile service for a brief time years ago, but ultimately shut it down in 2011.

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

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