Cox Business Hears Mobile Phones Ringing

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Cox Communications is gearing up for a big push to sell wireless voice and data services to small businesses -- in tandem with its consumer wireless move -- which represents a $4 billion market opportunity across the operator's footprint, according to Cox Business senior vice president Phil Meeks.

"Our data indicates that small business customers aren't satisfied with their current carrier," Meeks said. He noted that incumbent wireless carriers typically offer small and midsize businesses plans designed for consumers, with features like free calling on nights and weekends.

Initially, Cox Business's wireless offerings will be available in the three markets -- Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb.; and Orange County, Calif. -- where the MSO has been testing its residential mobile services. Meeks said the business services will follow "shortly" after the consumer launch of Cox Wireless, which the operator was expecting this month.

For business customers, Cox will introduce wireless plans in two general categories, Meeks said: one for "data-hungry" customers that includes unlimited data usage, and a basic voice/data plan. He declined to provide more details.

Cox has negotiated deals with wireless handset manufacturers for devices, which will be offered in both the business and consumer side, but has not identified partners on this front.

Cox will use Sprint Nextel's 3G network in certain markets, while it is building and operating its own 3G CDMA network in others. (Cox hasn't specified where it is building its own wireless networks.) The operator has spent $550 million on wireless spectrum in Federal Communications Commission auctions.

Currently, Cox Wireless has launched in Omaha with paying "friendly" customers the service is successfully operating with testers in Hampton Roads and Orange County, said Cox director of media relations David Grabert. The services will be more widely available in each market "very soon," he added. "‪Per our normal approach in the deployment of new services, we are carefully evaluating the customer experience and refining our processes prior to wider deployment."

On the business side, initially Cox will market the wireless services to its existing base of 250,000 commercial customers, Meeks said. "It's easier to sell products to customers you already have a relationship with," he said.

Cox Business is on track to hit $1 billion in revenue for 2010, and projects that doubling to $2 billion by 2016, Meeks said. In addition to wireless, the business services group anticipates growth this year in new managed services, including "Session Initiation Protocol trunking" for connecting private IP-based phone systems to the public telephone network.

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