Time Warner Cable said to be testing WiMAX smartphone

Time Warner Cable is testing a WiMAX smartphone, according sources with knowledge of the company's plans. A Time Warner spokesman confirmed that the company's product teams are working with unnamed vendors on future mobile products that would include a voice-calling component, but he declined to provide further details.

"Mobile voice over the 4G network is something we are evaluating at this time," said TWC spokesman Justin Venech. "But we don't have formal launch plans in place in regards to a mobile voice product."

The sources, who asked to remain anonymous, indicated the smartphone would work over both Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX network and Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) CDMA network. Sprint currently sells a number of dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system.

(Clearwire announced last year it would offer WiMAX smartphones, but recently discontinued those plans as part of a reshuffling of its  retail business.)

TWC's smartphone efforts would put the company into direct competition with mobile voice carriers like AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Currently, TWC resells Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service--supplemented by roaming onto Sprint's EV-DO network--as a data-only offering; the company offers unlimited WiMAX and EV-DO data access for $49 per month.

Venech said TWC's first step into mobility involved data access. "Voice is the next logical step," he said.

TWC isn't the only cable company playing in wireless. TWC rival Comcast also resells to Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network in a data-only scenario. Separately, Cox Communications has put on hold the buildout of its own wireless network in favor of reselling voice and data service on Sprint's CDMA network through an MVNO model.

Indeed, this isn't TWC's first foray into voice calling services. The company was one of a handful of cable companies that offered voice and data services via Sprint's network through the now-defunct Pivot joint venture.

TWC's smartphone efforts come at an interesting time for the company--Time Warner Cable executives said in January that the company's wireless business has produced "not very impressive and pretty inconclusive" results. The company said it counted 15,000 WiMAX subscribers at the end of the fourth quarter.

Further, Bloomberg recently reported that TWC is negotiating with Harbinger Capital Partners-backed LightSquared to ink a wholesale LTE deal.

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