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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 29, 2010

Cox Cable Heats up Wireless

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

One of the more interesting trends worth watching in 2010 is the cable industry's move into wireless services. Cox Communication is going full speed ahead with service launches in three markets and tests with 4G LTE technology that may foreshadow not only its future, but Clearwire (News - Alert) and Sprint's as well.
Cox is first introducing 3G CDMA based wireless technology for phone and data service in Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb. and Orange County, Calif. It's no big secret that Cox (News - Alert) is getting into the mobile game, since the company started buying wireless spectrum back in 2006 and added 'beachfront property' 700 MHz spectrum to its portfolio in 2009.  In total, the company has spent over $550 million for the rights to licensed wireless spectrum.
At first blush, having a mobile phone tied to your cable company sounds a little crazy, but since a lot of mobile phone usage is 'tied' into a geographic area as people move around to and from work and around their neighborhoods, a 'local' mobile service suddenly makes a lot more sense. If you aren't doing a lot of travel outside of the local service area, there are few worries about having to incur additional charges in the form of roaming; should you have to roam, long-time cable partner Sprint will provide service outside of Cox's service areas.
Cox will offer a 'quad play' – a term I scoffed at four years ago – of voice, data, video, and wireless services. Its customers have been asking for quad and people tend to like the dual benefits of a single bill and a lower price in a bundle.
Initially, Cox is offering an 'integrated' wireless service to residential customers, but Cox Business will offer business class services to its audience in the future. If you're shopping for service now or in the near future, putting Cox on a list of vendors to consider would be a good thing.
Down the road, Cox plans to roll out 4G LTE technology. The company conducted 4G trials in Phoenix and San Diego with voice and HD video streaming and plans to give a keynote on what it has learned in a couple weeks at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Companies working with Cox were Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei (News - Alert); the latter company has been racking up a lot of attention in the LTE space of late.
Cox's work with LTE opens up a list of questions guaranteed to make analysts lose sleep: What does Sprint ultimately plan to do with its 3G CDMA network? If Cox is currently using Sprint for 3G roaming, will it have to establish a different relationship with Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless to conduct LTE roaming if Sprint isn't going to provide a future path to LTE?
Clearwire, Sprint's 4G WiMAX (News - Alert) half-brother, has left its options open to migrate from WiMAX into LTE down the road. Since the underlying network for WiMAX is IP-based and a lot of the hardware between WiMAX and LTE is similar (yes, there is some handwaving here), LTE could be a relatively painless 'bolt on' option by adding LTE radios on cell towers in the future. 

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney