Cable's Going Mobile

Carl Weinschenk

The cable industry's lineage is bringing video to television sets. Perhaps for that reason, it traditionally has lacked a credible mobile voice play. Simply, entertainment video transport did little to develop the highly specialized technical, operational and marketing skills necessary to compete in the dog-eat-dog mobile world.


While the industry did an admirable job of establishing itself as a power in the residential wireline telephone and broadband data game, it never quite got its mobile feet on the ground. That situation is on the point of change, however. The industry is slowly adding mobile service and building its triple play into a grand slam.


Cox Communications said this week it is set to test its phone and mobile service. The first three sites will be Hampton Roads, Va.; Orange County, Calif., and Omaha, Neb. That's no surprise. The sites -- which now have 1.45 million Cox subscribers-have served as the operator's main test beds for decades. It is also no suprise that it is working closely with longtime cable ally Sprint. Cable Digital News reports that Cox plans to build out its own wireless network, but that the initial tests will rely on Sprint's Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) 3G network.


Clearwire seems to be at the center of cable's move to mobilize voice and advanced mobilized applications. FierceWireless, in a general report about Clearwire's progress, said that the company plans to introduce a WiMax-enabled smartphone during 2010. The aim, according to CEO Bill Morrow, is to have the device in the field during the second half of the year. The story says that Sprint is planning 3G/4G phones, also by the end of 2010.

The general upheaval in telecommunications in general and the wireless/mobility sector in particular is providing the cable industry with its best opportunity yet to fill an important gap in its repertoire. It's an industry run by clever folks, and they have long been aware that it lacks this skill set. It also sees that the future is highly mobile, and the shortcoming was an increasingly serious vulnerability. The bottom line is that the cable industry, through Clear and on its own, is primed to make a concerted wireless/cellular play.

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