Cox's Bye dishes on LTE, 700 MHz and bundling wireless

with Cox's Stephen Bye

Cox's Stephen ByeLast week, Cox Communications announced it started trialing its wireless offering in three markets (using Sprint Nextel's network) as part of a buildup to a larger wireless expansion scheduled for next year (that will use Cox's own spectrum and equipment from Huawei, Starent and others). FierceWireless Associate Editor Phil Goldstein recently spoke with Stephen Bye, Cox's vice president of wireless services, about bundled offerings, Cox's target markets and what strategies cable companies have to pursue to be successful with their wireless plays.

FierceWireless: Why do you think cable operators are getting further into wireless? Is it because AT&T and Verizon have been aggressively pushing their U-verse and FiOS services?

Bye: I can't speculate for the other parties and the other companies. At least from a Cox perspective I would say there's really a couple of things that we see as to why we're getting into wireless and why now. And that really hasn't changed over the course of the year or even the couple of years that we've been working on it. First and foremost, our customers are interested and have a need for wireless communications, and are certainly interested in buying that product form us. We're certainly seeing the demand there, and we want to satisfy their needs as a total communications provider. So today, we've been very successful in selling voice, video and data into the home, and they have a need and an interest in buying wireless from us, so we see it as a component of the package and the service mix that we can offer to be a total communications provider.

The second motivation as we look at wireless is we're sort of at the beginning of the frontier on data and video services and non-voice services moving into the wireless space, and being able to take those services that the customer has within the home outside the home. One may argue that we're getting into the industry late, we still think we're fairly early in that next wave of adoption, and see an opportunity as video and data services become more prevalent outside the home on mobile devices. And through those mobile networks, we certainly see an opportunity for us to take some share in that space. From our perspective, we see it really from those two dimensions.

FierceWireless: What is Cox's timeline for its general launch next year?

Bye: We're not laying out the timetable. Historically--and this is how you've seen Cox launch products in the past--we sort of have a very, what I would consider, a deliberate and disciplined approach to our ramp. This is not a small investment or a small undertaking for a company like ourselves, and we want to get this right. We'll roll it out as we go and as we build in the successes that we have, we'll gradually roll it out into all of our markets, and expect it to be very successful. We generally do things on a market-by-market basis, and we're going to do the same thing with wireless as we've done with every other product.

FierceWireless: When that larger deployment hits, will Cox look to provide wireless service outside its traditional cable markets?

Bye: There's an important distinction from a customer's perspective. The customer will be able to enjoy a nationwide experience and service. So it's not going to be different from the experience they have with any other provider in the market today. But, our bread and butter, and our brand and customer base, is our cable base. And our voice and video and data customers know us, and so that's clearly our target market and clearly the market that we're best positioned to serve. Somebody in New York doesn't know who Cox is and we don't have a distribution model to be able to support that, so that's not our focus. But our customers in Orange County, Hampton Roads or Omaha, they're going to have a national product and the product will work throughout the country...Continued.

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