Cox Puts Home-Net Service in Full Gear

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After nine months of testing in New England, Cox Communications Inc. has given the green light to deploy a home-networking product that will reach all of its high-speed data markets by the end of 2003.

The new service from Cox, named Home Networking, will include professional installation of either a $299 wired Ethernet network or a $349 wireless 802.11b Ethernet version, which includes the hardware and software to link up to four computers. There are promotional discounts varying from market to market to knock that price down.

Once the network is installed, customers pay $9.95 monthly for 24-hour technical support.

Trial panned out

The service evolved from the New England trial, which started out with 20,000 customers in Rhode Island and Connecticut and was later expanded to include the entire system. With the trial deemed a success, the MSO is now planning to launch the service in all 26 of its high-speed data markets by the end of 2003.

That process has already started — the home networking service recently debuted in Eureka, Calif., with rollouts in San Diego and Hampton Roads, Va., planned for December.

"Many U.S. homes now have more than one personal computer, and linking computers together remains a challenge for some consumers. Research indicates that more than half of current high-speed Internet customers have an interest in assistance with home networking," Cox senior vice president of strategy and development Dallas Clement said in a statement. "By offering affordable hardware and professional installation, we can help our customers share the speed of broadband and files among all of the computers in the house. For some customers, this can mean monthly savings if they've been paying for more than one Internet connection."

While the trial didn't produce any major problems requiring changes to the final product, Cox was somewhat surprised by the take rate among new versus existing customers and wired versus wireless gear, according to product development manager for high-speed Internet Mark Bell.

"There were no real big surprises, other than it was kind of interesting that we had a pretty even split between the number of sales of home networking to new customers and existing customers," Bell said.

He added that the split between wired and wireless sales was also pretty even. "That was kind of interesting."

As Cox continues the home networking rollout, it will be fortifying its customer service and technical support operations. But Bell said that effort would not be overly burdensome.

"We will be training most of our tier one reps to support home networking, but I don't think it is going to be any more strenuous than any new product," he said. "We did find in the trial that although we got calls, it wasn't as significant as we had anticipated, so that was a good sign."

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