03:42 PM

Cox Moves Forward With Wireless Plans

Cox will use its acquired spectrum to launch cellular service, but other cable providers likely will look toward WiMax to provide mobile services.

Cox Communications continues to plow forward with its plans to build a cellular network, but the cable company may have a hard time standing out in the crowded field.

Cox spent more than $300 million to acquire portions of the 700-MHz spectrum, and it will be using this to roll out its wireless service. The move would let the cable company offer a "quadruple play," meaning it can offer cable TV, home phone and Internet services, and wireless calling capabilities. The move is in response to telecoms increasingly encroaching on Cox's territory, as Verizon and AT&T are slowly rolling out television with FiOS and U-Verse.

While having a one-stop shop for Internet, cell phones, TV, and home phone will strengthen Cox's offerings, it's unclear how it will differentiate itself in the wireless market from AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The major carriers generally get exclusive access to consumer-friendly handsets like Apple's iPhone 3G, the BlackBerry Storm, and the T-Mobile G1.

The cable company has not announced pricing but has indicated that it will integrate mobile video services into its handsets. This could mean Cox wireless users can control their digital video recorders on the go or even stream TV shows on the handset.

"Wireless is straight from our offensive playbook," said Cox president Patrick Esser. "It's an important innovation, a logical business evolution, and it will maximize the immense power of Cox's greatest asset -- the last mile of robust broadband networks."

Other cable companies know that having mobile services is a needed part of the arsenal, but other cable providers are taking a different approach to wireless. Comcast and Time Warner have invested hundreds of millions in the Clearwire venture and will likely resell WiMax once Clearwire has deployed the 4G network.

"Wireless is a conundrum for the cable industry in how we take that first step," Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts said at an industry event last week.

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