Cox To Enter The Mobile Phone Business… For Real

from the didn't-expect-that dept

It’s no secret that the various cable companies have been interested in offering some sort of mobile phone service. A few years ago, the biggest cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox) teamed up with Sprint to offer mobile phone service under their own brands, building on Sprint’s experience in allowing others to offer their own branded mobile phone service (known in the business as being a mobile virtual network operator — or MVNO). Of course, since then, a ton of MVNO efforts have failed (remember ESPN’s own mobile phone service?) and the cable companies never actually moved forward with offering service on Sprint’s network. There was some thought that the cable companies were still interested in something in the mobile space, and Comcast and Time Warner are a part of Sprint’s WiMax offering, but clearly Cox had decided to go its own way by that point.

Even so, it’s quite surprising to find out that Cox is entering the mobile phone business for real — as in building its own network. The company has apparently been acquiring spectrum to serve its market, and negotiating with handset providers. The article is a little unclear, but it sounds like there may still be a roaming agreement with Sprint, since the article claims the phones will work on both Cox’s network and Sprint’s — suggesting Cox is working on an EVDO network. However, the company also claims that it’s looking at using LTE as its “4G” technology. LTE is the technology chosen by pretty much everyone else in the US but Sprint, which is betting on WiMax.

Cox claims that its mobile service will be highly integrated with the other aspects of its business, including letting people watch TV on their handsets, control their DVRs from the handsets and automatically synchronize phone address books with home computer address books. It’s good to see them thinking about real integration between services, because that’s still pretty rare, but those services are all going to need to work pretty well together to make it really convincing for most people. Either way, you could see this as the epilogue to the death of MVNOs. While we’ve already seen that most MVNO plans went nowhere, it’s quite a statement when a company is now choosing to build its own damn network rather than just piggybacking on someone else’s.

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Companies: cox, sprint

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Comments on “Cox To Enter The Mobile Phone Business… For Real”

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mason says:

If they don’t install a LTE network at the get go then they are completely retarded they need to have a faster network then the other providers if they want to be able to get new customers I have cox Internet but I don’t think I would ever use them for phone service. AT&T has me for the next 2 years at least but maybe after. I think cox kind of screws their cutomera over so I don’5 think I would use them and if food Internet got here I would move over to that in a minute.

Rick says:

Maybe It's Not about the 'Phone' Service

Think about it. A phone is no longer a phone anymore and the future is all about bandwith. I’m assuming Cox already has plenty of bandwith available as an internet service provider and building a network from scratch is a lot cheaper than maintaining multiple legacy networks while you build it. Tying everything to their entertainment and home network is just an evolution of where ‘phone’ devices are going anyway.

Cox is in a position to leapfrog ahead of the other cellco’s if they aggressively build a 4G network using Sprint’s 2G as a filler network in the process.

Anonymous Coward says:

A Differnt Spin?

If I were a Cox investor I would be pissed off! How can this company even think about entering such an over crowded market? The competition is cut-throat, the established players are entrenched, and there will be no compelling reason for existing wireless phone customers to switch. The integration features are laughable as a persuasive argument for everyone but existing Cox cable customers. And to top it off they are investing in building their OWN network instead of using an existing network? How can they defend this as anything but a poorly conceived desperate attempt at diversification. Unless…they are planning on using this to get on the good side of the FCC. The FCC chairman has shown a great deal of favoritism to TELCOs and a general loathing for cable operators.

Hmm it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Not An Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Differnt Spin?

Cox is a private company. Thats one reason they can do this, they don’t have to worry about investors making up their mind for them.

A lot of your arguments sound just like one’s used 10 years ago when Cox was the first cable company to go into the phone business. Hmmm, now look at things, just about every cable company offers phone and phone companies have realized being a one stop shop is the way to go and are now investing in the video business.

Sounds to me like they are just being ahead of the curve again, go them.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

MVNOs Not A Dead Concept

MVNOs are hardly a dead concept. The failure of the most high profile attempts (AMP’d, ESPN, Disney, Helio) certainly makes it look like a doomed idea, but that’s only if you neglect to look at the smaller, less ambitious MVNOs:

Virgin Mobile, Kajeet, Boost,,, and about a hundred more around the world. The list is actually quite long.

It seems that an MVNOs success depends on the success of their business model. Those with particularly high costs (those failed ones above) can’t survive the initial years, but those who focus on low costs do much better. One thing seems consistent, certainly in the US market: it has proven far harder than anyone thought to “win” a subscriber, or to pry them away from their existing carrier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MVNOs Not A Dead Concept

MVNOs are hardly a dead concept.

I hear that they still make horse buggies too and thousands of people around the world still use them. Don’t look for me to run out and invest in any horse buggy companies though. As far as I’m concerned, the automobile basically replaced them and the idea of horse buggies as primary transportation is a “dead concept”. You are, of course, free to disagree.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Cox And MSOs Make Sense In Wireless

Oh, and the Cox story is sensible, predicted, and good for consumers because of increased competition.

AS for the speculation as to their technology choices, the path is clear. The ABSOLUTE KEY to technology decisions for new entrants is: what kind of equipment is available at the frequencies you need. For small players like Cox (or telus, bell mobility, US cellular, etc.) this means you can only get the same gear as some larger carrier, or a global standard.

I would expect Cox to do LTE at 700MHz, because that’s what VZW and ATT are doing, so equipment will be available and affordable. Expect mobile broadband (laptops, other CE devices) to be part of the service offering.

Since Cox is building its own network, it will need to roam to an existing network to have acceptable coverage footprint – expect their phones to be dual-mode, roaming on EV-DO. This hardware will be available because VZW will need that dual modality (LTE/EVDO).

Cox will probably partner with Sprint for roaming, because Sprint is their partner and because Sprint is the leading wholesale roaming vendor. However, they could just as easily roam on Verizon.

Cox enters the market with the ability to bundle, retail locations, brand awareness, reputation as communication service provider, trucks, warehouses, dispatch yards, core networks, NOCs, billing experience, and other distinct advantages over other new entrants.

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