Cox Pivots Back Into Mobile Services

Cox Communications Inc. has identified the first three markets that will get the MSO's wireless phone and mobile high-speed Internet service: Hampton Roads, Va.; Orange County, Calif.; and Omaha, Neb. Cox serves 1.45 million cable subs in those three markets combined. (See Cox Reveals First Wireless Markets.)

While wireless services are a bold move for a cable player, Cox can act like it has been here before. This move, in fact, is Cox's reentry to the mobile services market after it, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Bright House Networks announced in April 2008 their intention to cut ties to the "Pivot" wireless joint venture with Sprint. (See MSOs Pivoting Away From Sprint JV.) Now, although Cox's wireless service will run on parts of a network to be built out by the MSO, the first set of markets will tap into Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 3G CDMA network "to get to market quicker, while managing every aspect of the service ourselves," a Cox spokeswoman said in an email to Cable Digital News.

Cox has launched wireless service to a "test group" of Cox customers in those markets, but the company is not revealing the size of the subscriber sample.

The operator likewise has not disclosed pricing and bundling plans or which devices will run on its wireless platform in the early going, citing "competitive reasons."

But the revelation of the first set of wireless cities marks Cox's big move into wireless, a strategy that's expected to knit in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum it obtained in 2006, as well as the 700MHz spectrum licenses it won more recently at auction. (See SpectrumCo Gets Licenses and Cox Waxes Wireless .)

Cox announced its plan last October, noting it will start off with 3G and eventually bridge over to Long Term Evolution (LTE), a technology that the MSO is currently trialing, the spokeswoman noted. Since announcing the wireless effort, Cox has signed on more than a handful of technology partners to provide various components of its mobile infrastructure. (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts , Starent at Core of Cox's 3G Push, Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection , and Cox Adds Interop to Wireless Roster.)

Residential first, biz later
At the start, Cox will target wireless services to residential customers, but does expect to extend it to its business services arm, which is on track to pull in $1 billion in revenues next year, and up to $2 billion within the next six years. (See Cox Targets $2B in Biz Revenues.)

The MSO said it plans to expand mobile service in its first three markets in 2010, and will complement those launches with upcoming retail stores.

Cox has not laid out a specific timeline for when it will roll out wireless in its other cable markets, which include most of Rhode Island; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego; Las Vegas; and New Orleans, among others.

Cox, the nation's third-largest incumbent MSO, has about 6 million residential customers, with about two thirds already taking the MSO's video, Internet, and wireline phone service bundle. Cox has about 700,000 cable subs in Hampton Roads, 400,000 in Orange County, and 350,000 in Omaha.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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