Cable Operator Cox to Launch Cell Network

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Cable operator Cox Communications has had its eye on wireless services for a while, putting a substantial amount of money into spectrum licenses in the 700 MHz band the FCC auctioned off earlier this year and which will become available once analog TV shuts off in the United States. Since then, Cox has bought up between $500 and $550 million in wireless capacity in its cable markets—New Orleans, San Diego, Omaha, Las Vegas, Kansas, New Mexico, and (of course) its home turf of Atlanta, and plans to offer wireless service to its existing 6 million cable customers.

Cox isn’t a stranger to operating wireless networks: it built a wireless operation in southern California and Las Veags in the 1990s, which it sold to Sprint in 1999. And it’s not quite a coincidence that customers who roam outside Cox’s wireless service area will have their mobile service picked up by Sprint Nextel.

Cox apparently plans to market telephone handsets under its own brand, and integrate features and services with its cable services to differentiate itself from other wireless operators: customers will be able to automatically synchronize data with home PCs on Cox Internet service, as well as remotely program their DVRs from their phones. Subscribers will also be able to tap into Cox-provided email and and voicemail from their phones, and potentially even stream video from their Cox cable packages to their mobile devices.

A formal announcement is expected today, although industry watchers don’t expect Cox to lay out exactly what handsets and features it will offer. Cox may have a jump on wireless carriers in that it already has a relatively dense fiber network to carry data traffic in its proposed service areas; nonetheless, the cost of rolling out new regional call service is expected to require significant capital outlay from the company.

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