Cable industry grapples with wireless encroachment

The cable industry is grappling with how to address the wireless industry's increasing encroachment on their traditional services.

Industry executives gathering at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's The Cable Show '09 in Washington, D.C., described their industry as being at a crossroads and embattled by wireless providers who are offering voice, video and broadband services that compete directly with the cable companies. They also tried to explain the different tactics they were using to embrace wireless on their own terms. However, there was definitely a strong sense of feeling pressed upon by the incumbent operators.

"Wireless is a conundrum for the cable industry in how we take that first step," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. "Frankly, AT&T and Verizon aren't the elephants--they're like the super-elephants," he said when speaking about the Tier 1 operators' massive spectrum holdings they will use to build next-generation wireless wireless networks. "You could call us the wireless have-nots."  

Comcast's approach to wireless has been to embrace Clearwire.  The company has joined other cable companies like Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in investing in the company's WiMAX technology. Another cable operator, Cox, recently unveiled plans to build out a 3G network. Cox won spectrum in last year's 700 MHz spectrum auction, and the company is expected to launch its service later this year, which will serve around 23 million potential customers. However, while Cox has invested heavily in new spectrum, it still thinks its main revenue source will come from existing infrastructure.

"The most valuable asset I own is still the last mile to the home," Cox President Patrick Esser said. "Wireless does not change that. Wireless allows you to put a mesh overlay on top of that."

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Related Articles:
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Huawei wins Cox 3G contract
Cox making 3G moves
Cox ready to be first cable operator in mobile wireless
Cable wireless offerings can't be me-too services
Cable companies exit Pivot JV with Sprint

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