Cox Communications, the third largest cable company by subscribers in the United States, will today launch its long-planned cellular network in three different markets: Orange County, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and Hampton Roads, Virginia — all areas in which Cox operates as the local cable company. According to Cox the three markets have a combined residential population of around 1.5 million. With a view to further expansion, Cox has reportedly spent USD550 million buying the rights to use wireless spectrum in and around Atlanta, New Orleans, San Diego and Las Vegas, as well as large parts of Kansas and southern New Mexico – giving it a potential catchment area of around 23 million people. Cox has said that it will use its own cell towers – which it presently rents out to other cellcos – and sell handsets via its own retail outlets.
Cox’s announcement marks the culmination of a lengthy flirtation with the US wireless market; during the 1990s Cox built and operated a cellular network covering Southern California and Las Vegas, eventually selling it to Sprint Nextel in 1999. Then in 2005 Cox attempted to develop a wireless service – branded Pivot – in partnership with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Advance/Newhouse Communications and Sprint Nextel. However, the alliance collapsed in 2008 when the company’s conflicting agendas proved to be an insurmountable stumbling block. Of the earlier, flawed attempt, Cox President Patrick Esser commented: ‘We needed to own the experience from front to back’. Further, Cox has indicated that it has one eye on the corporate market, with Phil Meeks, Senior Vice President of Cox Business, admitting: ‘Our research tells us that they have a high level of dissatisfaction with their current providers’, going on to explain that mid-size companies in Cox’s markets spend around USD4 billion a year on wireless services.