Cox Communications, the third largest cable broadband operator in the United States, has announced that it discontinued selling Cox Wireless, its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service, on Wednesday 16 November – blaming an inability to compete with its established rivals. The news comes just two months after Cox, which piggybacks on Sprint Nextel’s CDMA-based network, inaugurated 3G mobile services in its most recent markets, San Diego and Santa Barbara, California. The company has said that it will continue offering the service until 30 March 2012, and all customers already signed up to multiple Cox services will receive a USD150 credit on their bill for every wireless line disconnected. According to a company press statement, Cox’s decision to terminate the 3G wireless service is based on ‘the lack of wireless scale necessary to compete in the marketplace, the acceleration of competitive 4G networks as well as the inability to access iconic wireless devices’. Although it planned to offer wireless services in all markets where it has an established cable presence, Cox had launched wireless services in less than half of its footprint, including: Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Northern Virginia (all Virginia); Orange County, San Diego and Santa Barbara (all California); Omaha, Nebraska; Oklahoma City and Tulsa (Oklahoma); Connecticut and Cleveland (Ohio); and Rhode Island.
The abrupt closure of its MVNO service marks the latest in a long line of false starts for the cableco and its stuttering wireless aspirations. In March 2008 Cox spent USD300 million on 22 regional 700MHz concessions in the FCC’s ‘Auction 73’, but in May 2011 the firm revealed that it intended to shut down the independent wireless network that it had started building, preferring instead to rely on a pre-existing MVNO agreement with Sprint Nextel for its wireless needs. Previously, 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.