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Britt: Wireless Broadband 'Interesting'

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is severing its ties to the "Pivot" cellular voice service joint venture with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), but that doesn't necessarily mean the MSO isn't attracted to the idea of developing a speedy wireless broadband offering. (See MSOs Pivoting Away From Sprint JV.)

Speaking Wednesday morning during the MSO's first quarter conference call, Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt stressed that the operator's wireless strategy "really hasn't changed for some time now. We haven't seen a big demand for the quadruple play to date. More interesting to me is the notion of broadband wireless… and how that might relate to wireline networks." (See TWC Updates '08 Outlook and Time Warner Cable Posts Q1.)

Britt did not go into more detail beyond that, but it's a suggestion that could reignite earlier rumors that Time Warner Cable and other MSOs are interested in forming a WiMax relationship with Sprint and possibly Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR). (See Cable Still Not in the XOHM, Why Not WiMax?, and Analyst: WiMax Might Scratch Cable's Wireless Itch.) Time Warner Cable, along with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and Advance Newhouse, also have some Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum tucked away, but have not yet indicated how they plan to use it. (See SpectrumCo Gets Licenses .)

Banking on bandwidth
Time Warner Cable's future wireless plans are still hazy, but its bandwidth strategy is clear. It will rely primarily on switched digital video and, where it can, reclaim valuable analog spectrum to make room for high-definition television (HDTV) and other advanced services.

In its high-profile New York system, where it will soon cross swords with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS TV service, the MSO offers about 58 HD channels, with plans to free up enough for 100 hi-def nets once Time Warner Cable completes its all-digital migration there sometime later this year. The operator also expects to launch its "Start Over" service in New York later in 2008. It has already started to introduce an HD version of the app, which allows customers to restart shows already in progress. (See TWC 'Starts Over' in HD .)

Its Albany system also has 52 HD channels, and at least five other systems have "at least 40," according to MSO chief operating officer Landel Hobbs. "You can expect to see these numbers continue to increase throughout 2008."

TWC has completed the all-digital shift in Brooklyn and Queens, and expects to polish off Manhattan by the end of 2008.

Where all-digital isn't an option yet, Time Warner Cable will continue to rely on SDV, which uses existing bandwidth more efficiently by switching, rather than broadcasting, some digital channels. Hobbs said the operator will have SDV up and running in most of its "major cities" by year-end, and had it deployed in 10 service areas by the end of the first quarter.

"Once we have [SDV], we can essentially add all the HD channels we can get our hands on," Britt said.

But MSO is also expanding bandwidth to 1 GHz in "selective locations," primarily in markets that carry a massive number of off-air TV channels. "But it's pretty rare in our case," Britt said.

The story is different at Cox, which happens to be a private company. That Atlanta-based operator is moving ahead with plans to move to 1 GHz across the board. (See Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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