Cox unveils quad-play incorporating CDMA wireless service

Cox Communications unveiled its long-awaited wireless service in three commercial markets, complete with a range of handsets and a variety of pricing plans and services. The rollout represents the cable industry's latest effort to grab a slice of the wireless market, and stands in contrast to the efforts of Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, which have aligned themselves with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR).

Click here for details on Cox’s phone lineup.Cox, which has been testing its service with employees and their friends and family since March, is launching commercial service in its three test markets--Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb. and Orange County, Calif. The carrier's standout promotion? "MoneyBack Minutes," which gives customers a 5-cent credit per each unused voice minute, up to $20 per month. The money will sit as a credit on subscribers' bills. 

Cox early this year initially said it would launch in March. In explaining the months of delay, Stephen Bye, Cox's vice president of wireless services, told FierceWireless it was "not about when we launch, but how we launch."

Cox's service currently runs over Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) CDMA network. Bye said the company plans to expand its wireless service to its other cable and broadband markets, but declined to give a timetable. Cox also owns AWS and 700 MHz spectrum, and has been building out its own network (Huawei is one of its suppliers). However, Bye said Cox has no immediate plans to transition to its own equipment.

"What's important to us is how we deliver the services and experiences [customers] need, whether it's through our network or wholesale partnerships, provided that quality is what we need," he said."We have the means and spectrum to move to our own facilities. But I wouldn't say it's a necessity to do so."   

Bye said Cox's service will be targeted primarily at current Cox customers who subscribe to the company's voice, video or broadband services. Additionally, he said the service will be marketed solely through Cox's company-owned retail stores and not third-party retailers. Bye said the strategy will allow the company to highlight its bundled services; indeed, customers who subscribe to more than one Cox service can get one free upgrade when they add wireless voice service.

Cox's wireless service plans break down as follows:

  • $39.99 for 450 minutes
  • $59.99 for 800 minutes
  • $69.99 for unlimited talk
  • $99.99 for unlimited talk, text and Web.

Customers also can add a $15 data plan (smartphone customers will need a $30 data plan). Subscribers will receive automatic text message alerts when they approach their maximum number of monthly allotted minutes or messages.

Cox will leverage its cable offerings to its wireless customers. Wireless subscribers will be able to program their home DVR and see TV listings from their mobile device. Android customers can get the Cox Remote Guide Access app from the Android Market to program their home DVR and see TV listings. Cox also will offer a Universal Contact Manager and a voicemail-to-text service.

Cox will offer phones at subsidized and unsubsidized prices. Customers who purchase subsidized phones are subject to early termination fees, and the ETF is calculated on the number of months remaining in a subscribers' contract.

Bye said Cox has been trialing mobile video for some time. He declined to provide specifics on a possible commercial launch of mobile video, but acknowledged Cox subscribers expect access to rich media content on their phones.

Cox also has been testing LTE on both its AWS and 700 MHz spectrum in Phoenix and San Diego on gear from Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) and Huawei. Bye declined to say when Cox might launch LTE service, but said he was pleased with how rapidly the LTE ecosystem--including smartphones and other devices--is evolving. "I still think there is work to be done there," he said. "But it is certainly happening a little faster than we'd expected." 

Bye described LTE as a complement to Cox's wired infrastructure, and said that the technology will allow the company to deliver data on a much larger scale. "With the two of those together, I think you end up in a net-net better place," he said.

For more:
- see this release
- see this fact sheet
- see details on Cox's handsets

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