Cox Chucks Wireless Network Plan

Cox Communications Inc. has dropped its ambitious, grand plan to build a wireless network from scratch using spectrum it obtained through two separate auctions.

The MSO will instead rely solely on an MVNO setup with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) that it's already using to deliver services in more than a handful of markets, and believes the move will accelerate wireless service launches in additional cities.

"We will soon begin to decommission our 3G network to better focus on making Cox Wireless available to more than 50 percent of our footprint this year," the MSO said in a statement to Light Reading Cable. "In continuing with our successful wholesale model for 3G wireless services, we will accomplish speed to market while achieving greater operational efficiencies from a wholesale model that continues to improve."

Questions about Cox's wireless future started to swirl in March when Stephen Bye, Cox's VP of wireless, left Cox to join Sprint as VP, technology development. That led to speculation that the relationships between the companies could grow much tighter. Kelly Williams has since been named Cox's VP of wireless product and operations. (See What's Next for Cox Wireless? )

Cox hasn't disclosed a wireless subscriber number, but said it's nearly doubled its projected subscriber forecast so far. Cox has been piggybacking on the Sprint network for its current set of launches in Rhode Island; Connecticut; Cleveland; Hampton Roads, Va.; Omaha, Neb.; Orange County, Calif.; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.

Cox debuted its wireless service last November, about seven months later than expected.

The MSO also hasn't revealed much about the status of its wireless buildout, though a report from March indicated that Cox had been installing towers in its New England region.

The decision to break down its wireless build will create questions about what Cox intends to do with its valuable 700MHz and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum. If it decides to sell, it may find takers in Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP) and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS), and perhaps even Sprint.

Privately held Cox paid about $550 million for its spectrum licenses, but hasn't disclosed how much it's burned on its wireless network build.

Before the decision to decommission its wireless network, Cox had plans underway to migrate to Long Term Evolution (LTE), and had conducted trials in San Diego and Arizona. Cox didn't comment on its current 4G plan, but it will likely go in whatever direction Sprint ends up taking.

For more
Read about the trials and tribulations of Cox's wireless deployment:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

COMMENTS Add Comment
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:04:30 PM
re: Cox Chucks Wireless Network Plan

Well before Cox's buildout plans started to look dire in March, the convenient scapegoat was Huawei, with some folks telling us that they weren't delivering on their promises. We'll have to see what Huawei says about that, but we were also being told that Cox was getting nervous about how much it was spending. Likely no one factor contributed to this decision, but they had to make one... all-in or all-out.

Anyone care to put odds on who will buy Cox's spectrum, if they try to sell?




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