Cox Takes LTE for a Spin

Cox Communications Inc. has sewn up a Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial in Phoenix and San Diego that enabled the delivery of voice and high-definition video streaming capabilities, indicating a more formal commitment to the proto-4G technology. (See Cox Tests LTE Voice, TV.)

In announcing the trial, Cox also revealed a new wireless vendor partner: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). The MSO said AlcaLu and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , an already announced supplier, participated in the LTE trials. More than a handful of other vendors are already tied into Cox's wireless technology ecosystem. (See Starent at Core of Cox's 3G Push, Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection , Cox Adds Interop to Wireless Roster, and Cox Picks AlcaLu.)

Cox noted that the LTE trials in Phoenix and San Diego utilized the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and 700MHz spectrum it acquired at Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctions in 2006 and 2008. The MSO paid more than $550 million for that spectrum, and intends to use a combination of both that and the AWS to fuel a broad mobile strategy that includes voice services as well as access to wireless broadband offerings. (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts and Cox Preps Cellular Network, Eyes LTE.)

Cox didn't say when it expects to launch LTE services commercially, but noted that it picked the Phoenix and San Diego due to their terrains and "suburban density variances." The relatively tech-savvy base of residential and business customers in those markets also factored into the decision, the MSO said.

Although Cox intends to use AWS and 700MHz spectrum for its wireless strategy, it doesn't have lots of the latter. The 14 "A" blocks it won cover 6.6 percent of the population, while its 8 "B" blocks cover just 0.6 percent, suggesting that they may need a partner with gobs of 700MHz real estate, such as those of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), to make a big play in that spectrum.

Cable Digital News has asked Cox to provide more details on the trial and its LTE spectrum plans, but VP of wireless Stephen Bye said in a statement that Cox is "encouraged by the success of the Phoenix and San Diego tests, which further validate our decision to pursue 4G based on LTE, specifically the 3GPP Release 8 standard."

And Cox may may decide to keep the meatier details of trials to itself for a bit longer -- Bye is scheduled to present more about Cox's 4G learnings next month during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

3G launch set for March
Cox conducted the LTE tests as it prepares to launch wireless services based on the 3G CDMA platform in three other markets: Hampton Roads, Va.; Orange County, Calif.; and Omaha, Neb.

The MSO hasn't released specific dates for those launches, but a teaser campaign mentions that the new service, along with pricing and packaging details, will be formally introduced in March. Cox's wireless service will run on parts of a wireless network the MSO is building on its own, but, in order to get to market faster, the initial set of market launches will operate on Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 3G CDMA network. (See Cox: Wireless Coming in March and Cox Pivots Back Into Mobile Services .)

Cox hasn't revealed when other cities will get its wireless product, but the LTE tests Cox just ran suggest that Phoenix and San Diego aren't too far behind.

Cox is also the latest operator to reveal more details about its LTE strategy. Among domestic competitors, Verizon Wireless intends to introduce LTE services sometime this year, supporting average data rates per user of 5Mbit/s to 12Mbit/s in the downlink. AT&T plans to start commercial LTE services sometime in 2011, with T-Mobile US Inc. 's plan expected to come online sometime after that. (See When Will Verizon Launch LTE in 2010? and Open & Unlocked. So What?)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:44:16 PM
re: Cox Takes LTE for a Spin

Cox isn't sharing too much more about this test (expect much more to come out at Mobile World Congress), but the company did confirm that trials and tests began in Q4 2009, and are ongoing. 

Cox, however, isn't saying how many MSO employees, friendlies or otherwise are on the trial, noting only that the trial systems "involve a number of cell sites and we are testing the services at various distances."

Cox still mum on whether more LTE field trials are set for this year, or there's a possible commercial launch in store for sometime in 2010.  It's also not commenting on speculation regarding its spectrum situation (ie. if it will need partners on the 700MHz front).



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