Sunday, August 19, 2007

Is Wireless Cable's Achilles Heel?


In the early 1990s, Comcast and other cable partners invested in an earlier version of "SpectrumCo," a business that would eventually become Sprint PCS, only to pull out later in the decade when the going got tough. Cablevision, for its part, also flirted with creating its own PCS network, but ultimately decided against it.

In 2005, Comcast, Time Warner Cable (TWC), Cox (COX), and Advance/Newhouse Communications banded together with Sprint Nextel to creat the "Pivot" service.

Sprint CEO Gary Forsee says that it took longer than expected to get Pivot off the ground and subscriber numbers haven't been released. That logically suggests uptake has been slow.

Recently, Sprint abruptly withdrew from SpectrumCo, the entity that in late 2006 snapped up $2.37 billion worth of licenses to wireless airwaves. The acquisition had spurred speculation that together, Sprint and cable companies were planning their own wireless network.

All of which might suggest wireless continues to be the platform telecom competitors can use to parry cable's wireline thrusts. It is, after all, a simple line extension to add voice and broadband access to a cable network. It is a discontinuous jump to offer wireless services over a completely distinct network. And cable execs dislike discontinuities as much as any other exec.

And the evidence is growing that mobile is way people "do voice."

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