Cox Eases Into @Home Transition

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It was Cox Communications Inc.'s turn last week to take the plunge as it started migrating its cable-modem customers from the failing Excite@Home network to its own.

And based on late reports, it appears the road the Atlanta-based MSO is traveling is not as bumpy as the one AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp. are headed down.

Cox's conversion plan comes in two parts — converting its 550,000 @Home customers to its own service and creating its brand-new network complete with a new Internet protocol backbone. The MSO will spend approximately $150 million to develop its own network.

Cox began its main push to convert its @Home customers last week, when kits including a conversion CD were sent out via Airborne Express. The operator has already converted its Roanoke and Hampton Roads markets in Virginia, and has started the process in San Diego, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

Although the call load to Cox's customer support has increased, the MSO is not reporting any major network difficulties or service outages.

"We can see from our early markets that first day you will get 10 to 15 percent," and then it will decline as the weekends go by, said senior vice president and chief information officer Scott Hatfield, who is coordinating Cox changeover project. "Toward the tail-end of January we will send some reminder e-mails, and the last week we will start sending out some phone calls reminding people to do this."

Cox began last month testing its converter CDs among its own employee cable-modem users. That prompted a high number of calls, so "we went and tweaked that, and we are very happy that we are just not seeing the call-in rates that we could see," Hatfield said.

"It's well-scripted; there is testing embedded in the software," he added. "It's not driving a lot of calls to our call centers. We feel like that part which is a very customer visible part is very well under way."

The new network conversion, meanwhile, involves reloading the provisioning and system software for Cox's 600 CMTS units, as well as completing the hooking to a new IP backbone and IP address control system. Cox started converting the first of its large markets to its new Cox.net network system last week. From there, the conversion will "kind of then sweep across our markets — it's almost a CMTS by CMTS thing," Hatfield.

"Our goal is to be done by the end of January," he said. "I'm sure there will be a few straggler tasks but we will get most of it done by then."

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