Cox Announces Wireless Network Plans

Cable operator Cox Communications is getting closer to launching a new cell phone service. The company has been interested in wireless for some time. Previously, Cox had been involved in a joint venture with Comcast, Time Warner, and other cable providers to offer cell phone service through a partnership with Sprint Nextel. The joint venture, called Pivot, dissolved last year due to disagreements among the participants regarding marketing strategy and pricing.

Comcast and Time Warner have since pursued other mobile services and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Clearwire venture. Once Clearwire has deployed its 4G WiMAX network, we wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast and Time Warner become resellers of the service.

Rather than pair with an existing offering, Cox is making plans to build its own wireless network using the nearly $550 million worth of spectrum it bought from the Federal Communication Commission's Advanced Wireless Services and 700 MHz wireless auctions.

Cox plans to bundle the wireless service with its existing cable TV, home phone, and broadband services. The company has not announced pricing but has indicated a desire to integrate mobile video services into the handsets it offers. With Cox’s “quadruple play,” Cox wireless customers may be able to control their DVR on the go or stream TV shows to their wireless phones.

Cox is currently the third largest cable operator in the U.S. The company provides service to some 6.2 million residential and commercial customers primarily in the South and Southwest. Cox plans to offer cell phone service and wireless broadband access for laptops in its home markets. The company will also provide service elsewhere using roaming agreements with national wireless providers.

Given the more than 84% of Americans already subscribe to a cell phone service, Cox is going to have a tough market to crack. In order to succeed, Cox will have to compete with other carriers by offering cool phones and lower service prices in order to entice customers to switch from their current carriers.