Sprint Nextel Partners Set Pilot Launches

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Atlanta-- Most of the participants in the Sprint Nextel Corp. wireless joint venture with four cable operators confirmed a re­port that pilot launches will begin in the second half of the year in seven markets for the service.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal Monday, the JV -- which includes Comcast Corp., Time War­ner Cable, Cox Communications Inc. and Advance/Newhouse Communications -- will begin tests in two Time Warner markets (Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas) and two Comcast markets (Portland, Ore., and an undisclosed city in New England).

Cox will also begin tests of the service, but it would not disclose where that would take place.

In an interview here after a National Show panel, Cox vice president of strat­egy Mimi Thigpen confirmed that the operator will begin testing the services. She said there may be slight variations between the partners as to exactly what services are tested in each market, but “80%-90% will be along the same continuum.”

Thigpen added that once the pilot launches are complete, the partners in the JV could begin to roll out the service fairly quickly.

“We’re trying to make sure there are no hurdles we need to fix, no operational challenges we didn’t foresee,” she said. “Then you will see us continue to roll out [the product] very rapidly.”

In a press conference after the Monday general session, Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee confirmed the three markets, adding that the launches will expand by the beginning of next year.

“We’ll go into 2007 ready to launch all of the markets across the country,” he said.

Sprint Nextel and the four cable operators an­nounced their JV in November and plan to begin rolling out services by the end of the year. Among the products and features being developed are integrated voice mail, the ability to pro­gram digital-video recorders remotely and the ability for customers to call up their TV-program guides on their cell phones.

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