Cable's love affair with wireless


Cable's love affair with wireless

I'm amazed at the cable industry's never-ending fascination with wireless. Over the years there have been many attempts by cable companies to get a foothold in wireless and build the elusive quad-play offering-cable, wireless, wireline and Internet. So far none of these attempts have succeeded.  

The most recent rumor circulating is that Comcast and Time Warner will invest $1.5 billion in a WiMAX wireless venture along with Sprint, Clearwire, Google, Intel and possibly others. Several analysts have discounted this deal, saying that there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and that they don't see this deal being any more viable than Pivot.

As you may recall, Pivot was the $200 million joint venture between Sprint and cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications formed back in November 2005. 

In its early stages, I heard rumblings about how Pivot would be much more than a wireless resale deal. There was speculation that the cable companies would leverage their programming deals to deliver content over the mobile phone. And there was lots of talk about a shared mobile DVR service that would let cable customers program their DVR on their mobile phone. Based upon what I heard, it sounded as if the cable operators would control the video content delivered to Sprint subscriber's phones.

But that vision never came to fruition. Pivot ended up being strictly a wireless voice play that didn't get much traction with cable consumers. In November Sprint announced that Pivot was plagued with provisioning problems and it had no intention of expanding it beyond the 20 markets where the service is currently offered. 

If the Pivot joint venture couldn't iron out all the provisioning issues, I don't see how this potential WiMAX wireless venture will be able to do it. Wireless is a complex business and provisioning customers on the network isn't an easy task.  Plus any sort of venture formed with so many different companies seems like a train wreck waiting to happen. How can you possibly balance all the various interests of such powerful players as Comcast, Time Warner, Sprint, lntel and Google?  -Sue