Another sign, perhaps, that the mobile industry is changing? US Cable operator Cox Communications says it plans to decommission what it has built of its own 3G mobile network, as Cox Wireless, and will instead continue to rely on its current wholesale deal with Sprint. By Ian Scales.
The move is a radical about-face for the company which had previously seen the Sprint wholesale arrangement as a stop-gap measure as it built subscriber numbers. It had not only invested US$500 million in buying spectrum, but had started building a network which will now have to be scrapped.
But Cox insists this move isn't phase one of another orderly retreat from the wireless market.
It claims it has been pleased with its progress as an MVNO and says it has actually doubled its projected subscriber numbers. It now realises that continuing with an MVNO arrangement will enable it to get to market faster, it says.
However, current and budding wholesale mobile operators in US shouldn't get too excited - the Cox decision doesn't necessarily signal a radical change in the market with more companies realising the advantages of buying mobile capacity through white label arrangements rather than building expensive capacity from scratch.
In fact, Cox has been an indecisive mobile entrant for the last 20 years. It first built and operated a network in southern California, selling it to Sprint in 1999. Then it tried a partnership with some other cablecos and Sprint Nextel in 2005 which subsequently fell apart. So the latest MVNO approach is actually its fourth go - maybe this time it has found the right answer.
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