Cox Kicks Off Test Of Mobile Phone, Data In Three Markets

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Cox Communications has launched a test of its new wireless phone and mobile high-speed Internet services in Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb.; and Orange County, Calif. -- but the company is not disclosing expected pricing or any other details at this point.

Currently, the services are being made available to test groups of Cox customers. The cable operator said it will expand the service across Hampton Roads, Omaha and Orange County in 2010. Initially the wireless services will be aimed at residential customers, with future "business-class services" targeted at Cox Business customers.

To market the mobile services, Cox also will be opening new retail stores in those three markets, saying it will increase its commercial space presence significantly and over time will grow its workforce in these markets by about 20% throughout its retail locations.

Cox -- which will be fighting head-to-head with AT&T and Verizon Wireless -- is playing cards close to its vest before the services become generally available next year. "We're not sharing those details (pricing, devices, etc.) right now due to competitive reasons," manager of public relations Jill Ullman said.

Cox is claiming to be the first U.S. cable systems operator to introduce a "fully integrated wireless phone and mobile high-speed Internet services." The company is investing at least $1 billion on the wireless initiative, which includes around $550 million on wireless spectrum.

Cox initially will bring the service to market in partnership with Sprint Nextel, which was part of the failed Pivot venture formed by Cox, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2005. In March 2008, Pivot and its partners stopped selling the mobile-phone service.

Cox executives have attributed the demise of Pivot to difficulty in controlling go-to-market aspects of the service, including pricing, billing, handsets, features and service enablement. With the new wireless services, Cox will manage everything except certain portions of the actual network.

"More than 40% of our residential customers trust us to be their telephone service provider and two-thirds of our subscribers take all three of our existing services. Our customers have asked us to include wireless services as part of their bundle and we've listened," Cox president Pat Esser said in announcing the launch of the market trials. "We're excited to let consumers know that they will soon have a better choice for wireless service. We've carefully considered the unmet needs of wireless customers and we'll be delivering a service that is uniquely Cox to address those needs."

Cox is soliciting feedback from consumers about what they'd like to change about their current wireless services on a Facebook message site, accessible via http://budurl.com/FBWirelessBoard.

As part of the wireless services kickoff, Cox said it will donate three computer technology centers -- valued at $25,000 each -- to a local Boys & Girls Club in the three markets (Hampton Roads, Omaha and Orange County). The centers will include new computers, access to Cox broadband service and education about the safe and responsible use of digital technology.

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