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Cable TV Companies Drop Sprint's Pivot; Still Seek Wireless Options

The nation's major cable TV companies have pulled out of Sprint's Pivot wireless offering but may work with Sprint and Clearwire on a nationwide WiMax network.

The nation's major cable TV companies have decided to pull out of Sprint's Pivot wireless offering. But they seem to have few wireless alternatives if they want to offer bundles of services to compete with phone companies, so they may have to step up their efforts with Sprint and Clearwire to develop a nationwide WiMax network.

Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable reported Wednesday what had been anticipated for months, ever since Sprint said in November that it would cease expanding the Pivot program: The cable companies said they have stopped marketing Pivot. Existing customers will be given an option of moving service directly to Sprint.

Key Pivot players have also been talking with Sprint and Clearwire about helping fund a nationwide rollout of WiMax, the next generation of Wi-Fi that offers faster speeds and greater coverage. Earlier reports cited meetings among Sprint, Clearwire, Comcast, Time Warner, Intel, and Best Buy as participants working to make WiMax a reality.

Adding credence to the seriousness of the cable companies' continued interest in mobile wireless was a report by GigaOM that Comcast has hired wireless expert David Williams, former VP of AT&T's Cingular Wireless operation and more recently CTO of Telefonica O2 Europe.

Pivot had been crafted by Sprint as an add-on to the triple-play package of cable TV, broadband Internet access, and telephone service offered by cable companies. However, Pivot never met its expectations as cable companies complained it was too cumbersome operationally. In addition, WiMax is beginning to look like a more profitable and effective way to deliver wireless services to cable customers.

"The driver was there [but there were] operational challenges that made it difficult to sell and bring products to market," a Sprint spokeswoman told The Associated Press. "It just wasn't a long-term solution."

Although the major players in WiMax negotiations have declined to comment on their talks, previous reports said Comcast could contribute $1 billion and Time Warner $500 million to a Sprint-Clearwire WiMax effort.

Sprint has been racked by a series of problems -- most of them related to its disastrous $35 billion acquisition of Nextel -- but it has been rolling out advanced mobile wireless technologies. It has been deploying 3G EV-DO service nationwide and has installed WiMax networks in Chicago and the Baltimore/Washington area in anticipation of funding for a wider WiMax rollout. Sprint also has been in an on-again, off-again business relationship with Clearwire on WiMax.

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