Cox launched a low latency "Elite Gamer" service in 2020 but discontinued the offering at the end of 2023 amid lower than expected demand. What does that mean for other telecom add-ons?

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

March 14, 2024

5 Min Read
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Cable giant Cox Communications quietly discontinued its low latency "Elite Gamer" service last year. The service, which cost up to $7 per month, allowed users to improve their connection with video game servers by up to 32%. The company said it canceled the service due to lower than expected demand.

"We remain committed to delivering a superior online experience for gamers and all our customers," Cox representative Todd Smith wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. "The insights gained from this service are guiding our ongoing efforts to enhance network performance, ensuring low latency and high speeds for gaming and other applications. We continue to invest in technology that supports the gaming community and connects them to what they care about most."

Cox first began testing "Elite Gamer" in 2019, as noted by Light Reading, initially charging $14.99 per month for two users. It was essentially a white-labeled version of WTFast, a service based out of Canada that is currently still available for around $13 per month.

According to VentureBeat, Cox launched the service commercially in 2020 across its footprint of around 6 million homes in 18 states. The company then discontinued the service at the end of 2023.

"Customers paying for additional connections or standalone service will receive a bill credit for the month of December. You will not be billed after the service is discontinued," the company wrote on its website.

Cox isn't alone

Cox is one of many network operators looking at ways to improve the metrics of their services – and to potentially make more money by doing so.

For example, RCN, Grande Communications, Wave Broadband and enTouch all launched a new Wi-Fi router from Netgear in 2021. Designed to optimize ping times and prioritize in-home network bandwidth for video gaming, it costs an additional $12.95 per month. It's still available.

Separately, Comcast is testing a Low Latency DOCSIS (LLD) network enhancement with companies such as Apple, Nvidia and Valve. It will allow Comcast customers to select which devices to take advantage of that feature, such as a connected gaming console or a virtual reality (VR) device. Companies can apply to put their services into the offering.

Comcast had initially planned to offer the service last year but is now planning to do so later this year. It's not clear how Comcast might sell the offering.

In addition, Cnet reported that AT&T is preparing to offer a "Turbo" service to its wireless customers. According to an update to the operator's iOS app, the service will "provide uninterrupted network speeds during peak traffic times."

AT&T told Cnet that the update contained "some inaccurate language" but didn't provide any further details. It's unclear how – or whether – AT&T will sell the offering.

Broadly, these kinds of services would appear to run afoul of the net neutrality rules that the FCC continues to consider. However, telecom companies have argued that their "pay more for better service" strategies adhere to the agency's net neutrality guidelines.

Raising ARPU

Services like Cox's "Elite Gamer" are designed to raise network operators' average revenue per user (ARPU). In some cases they have been wildly successful.

For example, OpenVault recently reported that one-third of the telecom customers it tracks are now provisioned for 1 Gbit/s Internet speeds. And the number of customers subscribing to speeds below 100 Mbit/s has dwindled to 10% – a 48% decrease from one year ago and a 77% drop from the same period in the fourth quarter of 2019.

This is despite the fact that there are almost no Internet services that require speeds above 100 Mbit/s.

The failure of Cox's low latency service appears to test the edges of this kind of business model. Customers might be willing to pay for faster speeds but not for service improvements in areas. This same phenomenon has played out in other industries. For example, carmaker BMW recently discontinued a plan to charge extra for heated seats.

Cox's experience could have implications for a variety of other services in the telecom industry. For example, mobile customers haven't yet shown a willingness to pay extra for satellite messaging, leading Apple to ditch a plan to start charging for the service this year.

Bullitt didn't find success with its satellite-capable phone either. That's probably why T-Mobile is planning to simply bundle its SpaceX-powered satellite messaging service into its existing premium service plans.

But this doesn't mean that satellite messaging is useless. For example, Verizon customers might give T-Mobile a closer look if they discover that T-Mobile offers D2D connections and Verizon does not.

Similarly, an enterprise customer might be willing to pay extra for Comcast's low latency connections even if a video gamer is not.

In the end, there is no way to test demand for new capabilities unless operators actually bring these types of services to market. Indeed, I might be willing to drop $5 on a "Turbo" connection to AT&T's network if it helps me file my story before I miss my deadline.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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