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Cox Wireless Service Coming in March

Cox Communications will launch its wireless service in March in three markets, starting out on Sprint Nextel's network while Cox works to build its own network.

The provider of cable TV, broadband and fixed-line voice service announced in October 2008 it would add a mobile component to its offerings by building its own 3G (third-generation) wireless network. The service did launch in 2009 as planned, though only in three markets and on a test basis, using the Sprint infrastructure.

Though other U.S. cable companies have had mobile offerings through partnerships, Cox surprised some industry observers by choosing the expensive and time-consuming approach of building its own infrastructure. That quest included buying its own wireless spectrum licenses. Rivals Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks are rolling out branded mobile data services using the Clearwire WiMax network, which they helped to fund.

Cox is building its network using EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) Revision A, the same version of CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) technology that Sprint uses for 3G. However, the cable company plans to test LTE (Long-Term Evolution) for a future 4G network, a departure from Sprint, which uses the Clearwire WiMax system for 4G.

Even though the initial launch will be on the Sprint network, Cox will manage every aspect of the service, including customer support calls, according to Cox spokesman David Grabert. The company will kick off its service with launches in Orange County, California, Omaha, Nebraska, and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Though Cox is not providing any details about plan prices or terms, on Thursday the company introduced a marketing campaign that pokes fingers at "unfair" wireless practices including surprise charges and unused voice minutes that disappear. The campaign says Cox's service will be "unbelievably fair."

Subscribers will be able to buy the wireless service by itself or in a bundle with Cox's video, Internet and voice services. The company has more than 6 million home and business subscribers in 18 states, and more than one-third of those buy all three services, according to Grabert. Nearly two-thirds of Cox subscribers take at least two of its services.

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