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Cox readies a re-entry into mobile

Cox Communications – one of the nation's largest cable providers – is preparing to launch a mobile service, according to several sources familiar with the company's plans.

However, the details of Cox's mobile strategy, including when it might launch and which wireless network provider it might partner with, are still unclear. AT&T executives have publicly indicated that the carrier is looking to sign MVNO partnerships with cable operators, and the sources said the two pursued MVNO talks earlier this year, but it's not clear whether the companies consummated the deal.

An AT&T representative couldn't immediately answer questions from Light Reading on the topic.

It's noteworthy that Cox is preparing to re-enter the mobile industry by offering cellphones and wireless services to its broadband cable customers. The action would put Cox alongside fellow cable companies Altice USA, Comcast and Charter Communications, which have all also launched mobile services to their broadband customers. Comcast's Xfinity Mobile and Charter's Spectrum Mobile piggyback on Verizon's wireless network. Altice Mobile runs on T-Mobile's network.

A Cox representative confirmed the company is interested in entering the mobile industry. "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. "We have not entered into any MVNO agreements yet."

That's a decided reversal from Cox's position in 2018, when it said it has no plans to re-enter the wireless industry.

Cox's interest in pursuing mobile again is underscored by some recent postings by the company and its employees. Cox's Tony Krueck wrote on LinkedIn four months ago that he is "establishing and leading the team to design, develop, and launch a retail wireless line of business for Cox Communications." And recent Cox job postings mention a "newly introduced Cox Mobile wireless offering" and a "Retail Wireless Services launch."

Cox also is among a number of cable companies that have registered to bid in the FCC's upcoming CBRS 3.5GHz spectrum auction. There are widespread indications that Charter and others are considering using that spectrum to construct their own mobile networks in select locations. Their goal would be to reduce the amount of money they pay to their MVNO partners by offloading their customers' mobile traffic onto their own CBRS networks.

Cox has a lengthy history in the wireless industry. The company built its own 3G CDMA wireless network using 700MHz spectrum and Huawei equipment in 2010, but shuttered the effort in 2012. It also sold mobile services through a Sprint MVNO during that period.

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

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