Cox Takes Another Crack At Wireless


Cox Communications, after scrapping the Pivot mobile phone service developed among a consortium of cable operators this year, announced plans to debut its own refashioned wireless services in 2009.

The services, which are to include mobile TV content, will be delivered initially via Sprint Nextel as well as through wireless networks the MSO is building using its own spectrum.

Cox said Monday it will use the nationwide Sprint wireless network "to quickly enter the market," while it concurrently builds its own 3G wireless network for additional market launches in 2009. Cox also said it will test Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, a higher-capacity 4G standard being adopted by AT&T and Verizon.

"Wireless service will be a key driver to Cox's future growth," Cox president Pat Esser said, in a statement. "As wireless communications enters the new generation, we are uniquely positioned to deliver the entertainment and communications services our customers want, whenever, however and wherever they want them."

The operator has spent more than $500 million on wireless spectrum in Federal Communications Commission auctions. Cox in March won 22 licenses in the 700-MHz band -- which is being vacated by the digital TV transition next February -- in California, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. 

Cox's revised plans to represent an attempt to control its own destiny on the wireless front. 

In March, after little more than two years, Cox, Comcast and Time Warner Cable stopped selling the Pivot mobile-phone service offered through a joint venture with Sprint. 

The challenges involved with the Pivot service included integrating service and marketing elements with the rest of Cox’s operational systems, Esser said at an industry conference in June 2007. “We still have product-integration issues we’re working through,” he said at the time. “You don’t just get into this business in 24 hours.”

In Cox's announcement Monday, Esser noted that "to deliver the best customer experience, we will manage every aspect of the service, from product development to marketing and sales to back-office operations and customer support and billing."

Cox did not announce which markets it would launch first, pricing for the services, or how long the company expects the full commercial deployment to take. The MSO had previously introduced Pivot service in San Diego, Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.

One challenge for Cox, given its strategy to bootstrap the wireless offering with Sprint, is that it must procure mobile phone handsets that work with both Sprint's and its own wireless network.

The cable operator said "delivery of converged content" is at the core of its wireless strategy. For example, Cox customers will be able to use their mobile phone to access TV shows, program their DVR, access content saved on their home computer and use enhanced voice features. 

The operator says 64% of its approximately 6.2 million customers subscribe to multiple services, and that one-third have the triple play of video, voice and data.

Earlier this year, Cox joined CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, the Rural Cellular Association and CDMA Development Group (CDG).