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Cox pulls plug on building its own wireless network

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 8:45am
Mike Robuck

Cox Communications has decided to shut down the 3G network that it has been building to instead focus on offering its mobile broadband and phone services through its wholesale agreement with Sprint Nextel.

Cox had ambitious plans for its own wireless network but didn't say how many systems the wireless network was being built in, or how much money was spent before deciding to discontinue the build-outs.

"We will soon begin to decommission our 3G network to better focus on making Cox Wireless available to more than 50 percent of our footprint this year," Cox said in a statement. "We believe this approach is good for our customers, allowing us to take the necessary steps to fulfill our promise to deliver a Cox experience that customers expect from us. In continuing with our successful wholesale model for 3G wireless services, we will accomplish speed to market while achieving greater operational efficiencies from a wholesale model that continues to improve. 

"We are proud of our initial success with wireless, already nearly doubling our projected subscriber forecast. This response is a testament to the Cox brand and our Unbelievably Fair value proposition."

Cox first announced it would pursue its own wireless plans in 2008. It acquired wireless spectrum, which included both 700 MHz and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum, from Federal Communications Commission auctions in 2006 and 2008. Cox spent more than $550 million for radio spectrum licenses to support its wireless plans, but the company's plans for its wireless network were constantly behind schedule over the past few years.

In 2009, Cox signed a deal with Huawei to help build its 3G CDMA network. At the time, Cox said it planned on launching the service later that year. Cox has also previously announced it was testing 4G LTE technology.

The slow build of the wireless network was rumored to be a factor in the departure of former Cox CTO Ken Hatfield almost a year ago. Last month, Cox hired former Clearwire executive Kevin Hart as its new CTO.

In March, Stephen Bye, Cox's vice president of wireless and the point man for Cox's wireless launches on Sprint's network, left the company to go work for Sprint. Cox subsequently promoted Kelly Williams to vice president of wireless product and operations in April.

After a trial run in Cox's Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb., and Orange County, Calif., systems that started in 2009, Cox launched its Unbelievably Fair service on Sprint's 3G CDMA EVDO Rev A network in those same three markets in November of last year, which were also behind Cox's previous deployment schedule.

To date, Cox has also launched its wireless service in Rhode Island, in parts of Connecticut, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla. Cox hasn't said how many subscribers it has for the service.

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