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Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

Welcome to the cable news roundup, Hump Day edition.

  • Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) bought its Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses "with every intention to use that spectrum to put SpectrumCo in a position to provide our customers with a wireless service, although the scale, type, and business case for that service was undetermined at the time of our purchase in 2006," Comcast EVP David Cohen noted Tuesday in a blog post. Cohen's comments come after questions were raised about the MSO's intentions for those licenses: Suspicions were raised when Comcast CFO and Vice Chairman Michael Angelakis told a Citigroup conference earlier this month that the operator "never really intended to build that spectrum," remarks made as several MSOs try to sell their AWS licenses to Verizon Wireless .

    In an attempt to put Angelakis's comments into the "proper context," Cohen added that the SpectrumCo MSOs were clear from the start that they did not intend to become "the nation's fifth wireless voice provider," but rather "to obtain greater flexibility in developing options for more advanced wireless services." Cohen added that SpectrumCo has also completed significant work and testing toward developing a wireless services using AWS spectrum, including the outlay of more than $20 million to clear incumbent microwave links (more than 500 so far) in the AWS spectrum service areas. (See MSOs Sell AWS Spectrum to Verizon for $3.6B .)

  • U.S. cable operators provided the fastest average download speeds in 2011, Multichannel News reports, citing new data from testing firm Ookla. Comcast and Charter Communications Inc. were tops, with averages of 17.19 Mbit/s, followed by Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) (16.40 Mbit/s), Cox Communications Inc. (15.76 Mbit/s); Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) (14.41 Mbit/s) and Insight Communications Co. Inc. (14.22 Mbit/s). Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) came in at 12.94 Mbit/s, an average that factored in its FiOS Internet and DSL services.

  • Hulu LLC , taking a page from the new Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) playbook, is starting to produce original programming for the Web video hub. The first of three originals is Battleground, a 13-episode series about political campaigners that's set to debut on Feb. 14. Hulu has earmarked $500 million for content in 2012. (See Netflix Tees Up First Original Series.)

  • Procera Networks says it's netted a third follow-on order worth $2 million from a Tier 1 North American MSO for its PacketLogic policy enforcement platform. The tack-on comes three months after the same unnamed MSO put in an original follow-on order of $6 million.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

  • craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:11 PM
    re: Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

    Can someone tell us: what are the legalities involved in the Comcast AWS situation? I assume there are rules against "flipping" spectrum, since they're swearing that they really were going to build a wireless service. What are the rules and potential penalties for violators?       


     


     

    Sandpaints 12/5/2012 | 5:45:11 PM
    re: Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

    Let the question be raised as to whether the spectrum was used to bolster any loan activities based on a balance sheet showing it as an asset on supporting financing documents during the period of time they held it? A clear answer to that will show a way forward to a conclusion of their intent. More answers need to be provided and examined carefully.


    In my opinion there will be more to be heard, perhaps on other extended matters before this is over, and I certainly look forward to reading the future stories.

    msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:45:11 PM
    re: Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

    Whatever the potential penalties, I can't imagine it would be possible to prove that the cablecos had no substantial plans for that spectrum. If Comcast felt comfortable with the statement that they were trying to "obtain greater flexibility in developing options for more advanced wireless services," then the company must feel it's got a lot of wiggle room. And, it's likely quite true that Comcast didn't know what exactly it would do with that spectrum in the future. Could even Comcast have predicted that such a deal with Verizon would go through? Unless you're talking major collusion, I doubt it. And I can't credit Comcast and Verizon being organized enough to pull off that kind of double dealing.

    craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:10 PM
    re: Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

    I agree, Mari. Unless there's a smoking gun that we don't know about, I don't see how it can be proven that Comcast and the other MSOs didn't intend to use the spectrum for some type of wireless service or that a sale to Verizon was a likely or hoped-for outcome. Secret meetings in a parking garage between Brian Roberts and Ivan Seidenberg? I don't think so.


    If you rewind the tape, the MSOs were quite serious about making a wireless play. It proved to be too difficult to turn a wireless play into a business success. At least that's how I see the story.           

    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:06 PM
    re: Comcast: We Had AWS Plans, Honest!

    The FCC comment period's just getting underway, so  I'm sure we'll see some sparks fly in there, and get some juicy details on these deals. JB

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