Cox Communications is giving up on its plan to build its own 3G wireless network, using spectrum it purchased at auctions in 2006 and 2008. Instead, it appears to be strengthening its relationship with Sprint.

Cox offered the following statement to Communications Technology:

"We will soon begin to decommission our 3G network to better focus on making Cox Wireless available to more than 50 percent of our footprint this year. We believe this approach is good for our customers, allowing us to take the necessary steps to fulfill our promise to deliver a Cox experience that customers expect from us. In continuing with our successful wholesale model for 3G wireless services, we will accomplish speed to market while achieving greater operational efficiencies from a wholesale model that continues to improve."

A Cox spokeswoman adds, "I do want to clarify that this does not impact any of the markets we launched in."

In 2010, Cox began offering wireless service on a 3G CDMA network leased from Sprint-Nextel. To date, the MSO offers wireless in these markets: Rhode Island; Connecticut; Cleveland; Hampton Roads, Va.; Omaha, Neb.; Orange County, Calif.; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.

"We do sell and will continue to sell Cox Wireless service," notes the spokeswoman. "We are currently leveraging Sprint’s network to deliver wireless service. However, the complete experience is Cox branded and supported; we manage every aspect of the service from product development to sales, customer support, billing, etc."

Cox also had tested Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology for a possible 4G build rather than use Clearwire’s WiMAX technology. Cox tested LTE in Phoenix and San Diego, using its own Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and 700 MHz spectrum. (For more, click here). The MSO hasn’t said whether it now has any plans for 4G or for using its spectrum.

Sprint’s Cable Connection

In March, AT&T announced a deal to purchase T-Mobile USA. That announcement was a stunner for Sprint, which will be left as the Number Three U.S. wireless player if that merger happens. Since March, Sprint has strengthened it relationship with Clearwire, agreeing to pay the WiMAX operator at least $1 billion this year and next for 4G wholesale services. (For more, see Clearwire Garners $1B Payment Promise From Sprint, But What’s Next?).

Sprint is involved with cable operators’ wireless plans in different ways. Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks have invested in Clearwire, but Sprint is the largest shareholder. And now, Cox is signaling it will rely on Sprint’s 3G network for wireless services.

At a Communications Technology Tech Breakfast at The Cable Show in 2010, Stephen Bye, then-vice president/wireless strategy and development at Cox, said, "For us, we look at voice as a $100 billion market in the United States. We want a share of that. We have a brand. We can add wireless to that brand." (For more, see Wireless Strategies: The Partnership’s The Thing).

Bye left Cox in March to become VP/technology development at Sprint.

-Linda Hardesty

And for more information on attending this year’s Communications Technology Tech Breakfast at The Cable Show next month, click here.

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