A few weeks ago, Cox Communications posted a help-wanted ad on LinkedIn for an executive director of wireless marketing. The advertisement said the position would lead the end-to-end marketing function for “the wireless brand strategy for Cox Mobile.”
“A critical success driver is to quickly acquire a deep understanding of the wireless market consumer segments to develop Cox Mobile’s brand value proposition,” stated the LinkedIn posting.
The ad was first noticed by wireless analyst Alex Besen, founder the The Besen Group. He said, “When I saw that position posted on LinkedIn, I thought ‘They must have made a decision to move forward with an MVNO business.’”
Cox will not confirm that it is planning to enter the market as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). A Cox spokesman said in an email, “We believe the market is becoming more attractive for us to enter the wireless space, and we are exploring it more aggressively now, but have not announced any specific plans. We have not entered into any MVNO agreements yet. The positions we’ve posted and/or hired support the fact that we are exploring wireless more aggressively.”
This wouldn’t be Cox’s first dance with wireless. In 2008, Cox bought 700 MHz spectrum licenses, and it built some wireless infrastructure to use that spectrum. It also dabbled in the MVNO business, using Sprint Nextel’s network. But in 2012, it got out of the wireless business entirely and sold its spectrum licenses to AT&T and U.S. Cellular.
Besen said of Cox’s earlier foray into wireless that it “did lots of trials, but nothing was successful…They didn’t have a clear go-to-market-position in mobile at that time. They didn’t know how complex it was to build a wireless network.”
Since then, Comcast, Charter and Altice have all established MVNO’s that seem to be gaining steam. Comcast’s and Charter’s MVNO services ride on Verizon’s mobile network. And Altice uses mostly T-Mobile’s network with some assist from AT&T’s.
However, Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge recently said that he was also talking to AT&T about possibly switching from Verizon’s network to AT&T’s.
RELATED: Charter talks with AT&T about wholesale MVNO agreement
As far as Cox, the cable operator is also planning to bid in the upcoming CBRS priority access licenses (PALs) auction in July, according to the list of bidders released by the FCC.
The cable companies have interest in CBRS because it could help them save money on their MVNO wholesale agreements. If they built some of their own wireless infrastructure in dense areas, they could use CBRS spectrum and offload some of their wireless traffic from their wholesale providers. Cablecos might also be looking at CBRS for fixed wireless access (FWA) opportunities.