Small cells

Cox Wireless Starts Out Femto-Free

Femtocells offer wireless carriers a way to beef up in-home voice coverage, but don't expect the small base stations to become part of the Cox Communications Inc. arsenal any time soon. (See Cox Wireless Is Go for Launch, AT&T Suffers Femto Activation 'Issues', and Where Is the Sprint 3G Femtocell?)

Femtos, says Cox Wireless VP Stephen Bye, are "interesting" in terms of the role they play for voice, but "the problem in the future, and even today, is about delivering tonnage of data." And for that, he says, smartphones and other wireless devices outfitted with WiFi are better suited.

"As I look at the challenge for wireless providers going forward... we're at an interesting inflection point. The concern that we all have is how we deliver tonnage of data," Bye says.

Several of the handsets that comprise Cox's initial menu, including five Android-powered units, already have WiFi on board, so there's an assumption built in that most customers will have their own access points. Cox, by the way, is one of several MSOs that's eager to deploy a new breed of Docsis 3.0 gateways that bake in WiFi and support tools that can give Cox the ability to troubleshoot those devices remotely. (See Cable Winks, Giggles at TR-069 and Docsis 3.0 Enters the Gateway Era .)

"There's a real opportunity to move that tonnage of data over WiFi, over our broadband network, and onto those devices in the home," Bye says. "We obviously have the assets and the infrastructure, and the customers have that equipment. Now they have devices that help bring all of that together."

Video on the horizon
Android-powered apps for smartphones will eat more than their share of data in or out of the house as Cox gets its wireless service ramped up. As will video, which seems positioned as an obvious candidate for Cox as it looks to tightly integrate its wireless offerings with its cable TV and high-speed Internet services.

However, beyond some apps that let customers scan the TV guide or manage their DVRs remotely, Cox isn't making a big wireless video play at the start. But expect mobile video to take on more importance later on as Cox revs up a "TV Everywhere" strategy that will encompass a wide range of mobile displays.

"Video is the core of our business," Bye says. "Stay tuned on the video piece. We're very clearly focused on that."

And it's a focus that Cox will need if it's to become successful in the wireless business, says Heavy Reading senior consultant Berge Ayvazian.

"Cox's entry into the mobile market is not just about adding a mobile offer to their existing customers," he says, noting that it will behoove Cox to make its entire cable portfolio as mobile as possible.

The tricky part, he says, is for Cox to be able to deliver that experience everywhere those customers go and not limit it to its local cable markets.

He said AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), despite some bundling efforts, still treat their wireless and wireline elements like separate companies and have struggled to pull off what Cox is now trying to attempt.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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