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Comcast, TWC bail out of 700 MHz auction; Cox still in

Tue, 12/04/2007 - 8:35am
Brian Santo

The two biggest cable companies are taking a flyer on the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, but No. 3 is still in. Bidders had to register by the end of the day Monday.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt told the audience of an investors’ conference that TWC does not plan to bid.

Comcast SVP D'Arcy Rudnay said in a statement: “Comcast Corporation has decided not to bid in the 700 MHz wireless auction. The 20 MHz of spectrum acquired in the wireless auction last year with our cable partners in SpectrumCo provides us with significant long-term flexibility and many strategic options. We will continue to explore how wireless can complement our services through various partnerships and consumer trials.”

SpectrumCo is the joint venture (JV) between Comcast, TWC, Cox, and Bright House Networks. That JV experienced a reverse a month ago when erstwhile member Sprint dropped out.

Cox said it plans to bid on licenses for the 700 MHz spectrum, however. The only other newcomer to register was Google. Among the traditional cellular companies, AT&T and Verizon Wireless were widely expected to bid.

A new cellular company, Frontline Wireless, said it will bid. The vice chairman of Frontline is former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. The company plans to build a 4G network and sell wholesale services – and thus may be another potential ally for any other company that might want to get into wireless, including MSOs.

The news from Comcast and TWC buoyed the values of both of their stocks (Cox is private). Investors were apparently unhappy at the prospect of the MSOs spending hundreds of millions of dollars – if not billions – on licenses, and probably billions more on the infrastructure necessary to use those licenses.

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