Cox Preps 700 MHz Spectrum Bid

Partners? We don't need no stinking partners!

Cox Communications Inc. has confirmed it will join the bidding in the 700 MHz spectrum auction, teeing up the potential for a convergence service strategy for the privately held MSO.

The two largest U.S. cable operators -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- said earlier today that they will not bid, indicating that they are still ironing out strategies for the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum they won last fall. (See Comcast, TWC Won't Bid in Wireless Auction and SpectrumCo Gets Licenses .)

"We remain committed to furthering our plans for the convergence and mobility of our services and believe that bidding on this 700 MHz spectrum could provide us with another alternative that would support our goals," a Cox spokesman said, in an emailed statement.

He also confirmed that Cox, like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), is bidding solo for the spectrum, but he did not explain how the results of the 700 MHz auction might affect the MSO's role in SpectrumCo and its eventual use of AWS spectrum. The AWS spectrum merely presents Cox with another "possible option," the spokesman said. (See Google Confirms 700MHz Bid.)

Of the $2.37 billion put forth by SpectrumCo for 137 AWS licenses, Comcast, at $1.29 billion, was the largest bidding party, followed by Time Warner Cable ($632.2 million), and Cox ($248.3 million).

Cox, along with the other SpectrumCo members, currently resells mobile voice services in partnership with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) under the "Pivot" brand.

As of late Monday afternoon, Bright House Networks , another member of the SpectrumCo J.V., has not replied to questions about its 700 MHz bidding plans.

On Monday, Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt told analysts at the UBS Global Media conference that his company had no plans to build out a fifth cellular network. Some analysts had expressed concerns that public MSOs could be considering such a capital-sapping plan. (See Dead WiMax Deal Could Aid MSOs .)

Because it's private, Cox could embark on such a plan without upsetting Wall Street. Cox has already gone against the grain by moving ahead with an across-the-board 1 GHz "upgrade" that could provide extra capacity for high-definition television and spectrum for Docsis 3.0 channel bonding. Public MSOs have discussed 1 GHz strategies, but mostly in the context of Greenfield deployments, rather than upgrades of existing plant. (See Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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