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.