Cable Eyes Quadruple Play

The consortium of cable companies--and Sprint-Nextel--working on boosting cable's triple play to a quadruple have reserved the right to bid in the FCC's June auction of advanced wireless services spectrum.

Some 1,200-plus licenses are up for grabs, enough to build a national network. The cable industry, which is already delivering video, Voice over IP phone service, and Internet access, is looking to add wireless service to its bundle as it prepares for increased competition from the phone companies in its video space.

The cable companies, Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, and Advance/Newhouse, have been part of a wireless joint venture last year, and are already planning to test service in seven test markets, Time Warner Cable Presdient Glenn Britt told investors in New York Wednesay. Britt said he was pleased with the joint venture's progress.

But the new spectrum, being reclaimed from government use would allow them to expand that effort. While Time Warner and the others have reserved the right to bid, the consortium has not yet said whether it would. It has until June 1 to decide, when upfront payments are due, according to a Merrill Lynch analysis of the auction.

Bidding for the AWS spectrum by the joint venture is described as separate but "contiguous" with its  wireless market tests.

"We are evaluating whether it would be a good idea to have a more direct interest in wireless spectrum," said Time Warner in a statement. "Accordingly, we, together with our partners in the Sprint-Nextel joint venture, are planning to file a Short Form Application at the FCC to participate in an auction of advanced wireless service spectrum, which will start on June 29.

"The filing of this application does not obligate Time Warner Cable or other companies to bid in the auction, but it provides us the flexibility to take part should we decide it makes business sense to do so."

The advanced wireless services auction in June is different from the auction of spectrum for advanced services in the 700 mhz broadcast band (ch. 52-69), which is scheduled for 2008.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.