Cable companies just can't seem to make a go of it in the wireless business, but it's certainly not for lack of trying. This year brought more evidence that MSO' attempts to offer a "quadruple-play" but adding a wireless component to home phone, TV and broadband offerings isn't catching on with consumers, no matter how many different ways they try to spin in.
One of the cable companies' chief vehicles for getting into the wireless business has been a wholesale relationship with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR). Both Time Warner Cable and Comcast were high-profile and early investors in and wholesale customers of Clearwire. Even Clearwire, however, notes in its quarterly earnings reports that the majority of its wholesale customers consist primarily of 3G/4G smartphone customers from Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S), a trend that hasn't changed much.
During the Time Warner's second-quarter earnings conference call, Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt noted that customer response to the WiMAX service has so far been lackluster. He even hinted that there might not be much of a market for the quadruple-play that the cable providers have been working so hard to provide to customers. Britt also said that while Time Warner Cable isn't ready to give up on wireless, it probably won't invest any more money in Clearwire.
However, by far the biggest cable company turkey in wireless this year was Cox Communications. Cox, which has been operating as an MVNO of Sprint for around a year, threw in the towel earlier this month, effectively killing off its hopes for a quad-play offering. Cox stopped selling wireless service and said it will discontinue support for wireless customers March 30. In a statement, Cox said it was killing its wireless service for several reasons, including "the lack of wireless scale necessary to compete in the marketplace, the acceleration of competitive 4G networks as well as the inability to access iconic wireless devices."
Cable companies don't seem to have the confidence, inclination, resources or savvy to make wireless work. It hasn't worked in the past and it didn't work this year.