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MSO Mobility Plans Move at Measured Pace

The landline voice, video and data triple play is quickly becoming a cup that's only three-quarters full. Now, MSOs are busy behind the scenes fleshing out mobility strategies to complement their core broadband entertainment and communications services. The question for cable operators is whether to simply resell another branded mobile service, create their own branded mobile offerings through a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal with another player, buy a mobile player through a cable kiretsu, or build their own mobile networks from the ground up by leasing tower space. The challenge for U.S. MSOs is that there are now only two mobile carriers left in play that are unaffiliated with a Baby Bell: Sprint-Nextel and T-Mobile. In an effort to test the effectiveness of business model #1, Time Warner Cable is reselling Sprint PCS service in a Kansas City market trial. There's nothing sexy in this deal, like using a dual-mode PCS-WiFi phone to backhaul in-home mobile calls over Time Warner Cable's VoIP network. Instead, Time Warner is simply selling three Sprint PCS phones and service plans with mobile billing appearing on subscribers' Time Warner statement. See http://www.twckc.com/sprintpcs/ for details. Sprint is hoping to trial dual-mode WiFi service, as well as cable friendly applications like enabling cable customers to remotely program their DVRs through their mobile handset, delivering mobile picture mail and video messaging to the TV, and supporting cable email and local video content on mobile handsets. If any cable operator is poised to accelerate mobile convergence it's Rogers Communications, which is both Canada's largest MSO and mobile carrier. Rogers Cable is launching PacketCable VoIP service in July, and out of the gate, will be using Rogers Wireless' voicemail infrastructure, providing the option for a simple integrated messaging solution. And in April, the wireless unit launched Rogers Mobile Television in Canada, providing streaming TV content to mobile handsets. Stay tuned.
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