Cox's Stephen Bye says 'bye' to MSO, heads to Sprint

Stephen Bye, who has been leading Cox Communications' push into wireless, is leaving the company to join Cox's roaming partner, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), representatives from both companies confirmed. Bye's departure comes just as Cox is ramping up new markets for its wireless service, which was launched in November after a seven-month delay.

Stephen Bye, who has been leading Cox COmmunications' push into wireless, is leaving the company to join Cox's roaming partner, Sprint Nextel Bye, currently Cox's vice president of wireless services, will start at Sprint on March 14 as vice president of technology development, Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat confirmed to FierceWireless. He will report directly to Steve Elfman, Sprint's president of network operations and wholesale.

In November Cox launched commercial wireless service in Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb. and Orange County, Calif.--the carrier's three initial test markets. The company will soon launch wireless service in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla., and Cox spokesman David Deliman said the company is "committed to rapidly launching additional wireless markets."

The MSO's key differentiator in wireless is "MoneyBack Minutes," which gives customers a 5-cent credit per each unused voice minute, up to $20 per month. The money appears as a credit on subscribers' bills. Cox's wireless service plans run from $40 per month for 450 minutes to $100 per month for unlimited talking, texting and Web access. The carrier offers a range of handsets, including Android-powered smartphones.

Currently, Cox's service runs on Sprint's network, though Cox has said it plans to launch service on its own AWS spectrum using equipment from Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) and Huawei. Cox has also tested LTE on the 700 MHz spectrum it owns. Although Cox has said it will launch more markets, it's unclear whether Cox plans to build its own network using its AWS spectrum or if it will fully embrace the MVNO model for its future wireless plans.

Deliman told FierceWireless that Cox has no additional updates to share on its network buildout other than that it has "reached several milestones. The MVNO model has allowed us to get to market to quicker," he said." At this point we still have a lot of options in the space."

Deliman also told FierceWireless that Cox appreciates Bye's contributions and the work of its wireless team. He also said Cox plans to hire a permanent replacement for Bye. For now, Len Barlik, a Sprint veteran and Cox's executive vice president of product development and management, will take over day-to-day duties for Cox's wireless operations.

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