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Cox Techs Roam If They Want To

About 3,500 Cox Communications Inc. field techs are staying connected to their mother ship using roaming software built by NetMotion Wireless Inc.

NetMotion's client-server mobile virtual private network (VPN) system maintains the IP state of laptops and their applications as techs hop from one type of network to another, whether it's based on cellular technology, WiFi, or even an Ethernet connection. The Mobility XE platform, which works with Windows PCs and handhelds, also selects available networks automatically, based on rules set by the customer.

The benefit? The techs don't have to restart an application or reboot a device, explains Tom Johnston, NetMotion's senior vice president of product and marketing. Interruptions caused by coverage gaps in the field "can tank productivity," he says.

Also baked in are some quality-of-service smarts that can prioritize bandwidth so "mission-critical" applications get first dibs on capacity, while others, like Web surfing, gets access to whatever is left over.

In the deployment with Cox, field techs equipped with laptops are using NetMotion in concert with apps such as "EdgeHealth," an internally developed cable modem signal testing system, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Outlook, Web browsers, a corporate instant messaging system, and some elements of the operator's Convergys Corp. (NYSE: CVG)-made ICOMS billing platform, including customer comments and work order information.

Johnston says more than 95 percent of NetMotion's customers have seen at least a 5 percent increase in productivity, and over half see a 20 percent improvement.

"We're eager to provide whatever tools we can to the technician to maximize the customer experience," says Al Briggs, Cox's director of mobile solution services.

But what about areas where a wireless or wired connection is completely absent? If the tech encounters a dead zone – inside an elevator or parking garage, for example -- the system tells the application and the server that the connection is slow and halts the sending of data. This spoofing technique essentially keeps the application running although no data is being transferred until NetMotion can reestablish a connection.

Cox techs run on a rules-based transition. If they are in the truck yard, they connect through the corporate WiFi connection. If outside of it, techs connect via the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) cellular network. Data delivered through those connections are compressed and encrypted, Briggs says.

Cox's relationship with NetMotion is not necessarily new. Before Cox deployed NetMotion's system across the board, the MSO was using a more expensive private radio system in partnership with Padcom Inc. Following some testy patent squabbles, NetMotion and Padcom merged in mid-2006.

"We saw lots of things in NetMotion's software we liked," Briggs says, noting that all Cox techs are linked back to the MSO's Atlanta headquarters through the broadband cellular network. "What we will do [with NetMotion} is get more mileage out of our legacy system."

Cox is the first announced cable MSO deal for NetMotion, though others are in the works, according to Johnston.

Because it is privately held, NetMotion does not divulge specific financials. However, the Seattle-based company says revenues jumped 51 percent in the first quarter of 2007 versus the same period in 2006. Overall, NetMotion's software is supporting more than 180,000 mobile workers with customers including Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and Con Edison Communications Inc. (NYSE: ED).

NetMotion competitors include Columbitech AB , a maker of wireless VPN software, as well as larger VPN suppliers such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Ltd. .

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:04:24 PM
re: Cox Techs Roam If They Want To should have read, "Cox Ending Spontaneous 'Can't Connect' Smoke Breaks for Techs"

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