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Sprint Signs Up Cable Operators For Joint Venture

Services offered next year will include a mixture of wireless and landline phone and Internet access, as well as video and other types of content.
Sprint Nextel and three large cable operators Wednesday said they have formed a "landmark" joint venture that will enable them to offer a converged mix of wireless and wired access and content.

That mix of products will include both wireless and wireline VoIP voice telephony, wired and wireless Internet access and cable-related content delivered to mobile devices.

Sprint entered into the joint venture with Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications. The joint venture will be funded with $100 million from Sprint and $100 million combined from the three cable operators.

The new venture will start offering a so-called quadruple play to their joint customers in 2006, the vendors said in a statement. By that, the companies that they will each offer combinations of video, wireless voice and data, Internet access and phone service via cable. They also said that they will offer video to mobile users.

The companies said in their statement that a new generation of wireless phones will be developed that will enable Sprint customers to access cable content via Sprint's 3G EV-DO network. The mixing of the networks also will enable customers to access e-mail, both home and mobile voice mail and even manage their digital video recorders via their cell phones.

Such services will look like they are making the cable companies so-called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), in which companies such as Disney use a cellular operator's infrastructure to create their own brand of mobile service. However, the companies said in their statement that, from a business perspective, the cable companies won't be MVNOs because they will retain rights and revenues the cable operators get from selling wireless services.

The companies also hinted strongly that they will take advantage of WiMAX wireless broadband, which Sprint is currently testing in the 2.5 GHz portion of the spectrum. They said they will investigate using that spectrum, "with the goal of further integrating wireline and wireless services."

"The new Sprint-cable partnerships will forever transform what used to be merely a cell phone into an indispensable third screen in customers' lives," Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee said in a statement. "With the convergence of technologies and capabilities accelerating, we will create personalized content, useful innovative applications and easy-to-understand navigation required by consumers."

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