Five years after the top U.S. cable companies, Comcast and Charter Communications, successfully launched in-footprint mobile services combining wholesale MVNO access to Verizon's wireless network with their own respective robust Wi-Fi hotspot networks, privately held Cox Communications is also getting into the mobile biz with a very similar playbook.
Announced at CES 2023 in Las Vegas this week, Cox Mobile will deploy across Cox's national footprint of around 5.6 million U.S. broadband subscribers across 18 states.
Cox Mobile will rely on a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with wireless giant Verizon, just as Comcast and Charter's respective Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile do.
And just like those aforementioned services, Cox Mobile will seek to offload as much traffic as it can to Cox's network of more than 4 million Wi-Fi hotspots.
Pricing will also be similar to Comcast and Charter, which jointly manage their respective mobile services with combined backend resources and network planning. Cox Mobile will offer an unlimited plan at $45 a month, or users can go "by the gig" at $15 per gigabyte of monthly digital usage.
The national deployment, which will see a marketing ramp-up amid next month's Super Bowl broadcast, was preceded by a soft launch last year in Las Vegas, Omaha and Hampton Roads, Va.
Cox Mobile is only offering Samsung phones at this point. On the service's new landing page, Cox is offering a $350 price break on the Samsung Galaxy S22, which regularly runs $799.99 to $1,199.99, depending on the configuration.
"The convergence of wired and mobile communications has never been more important. Customers recognize Cox as a reliable provider of connectivity, so introducing a mobile phone offering was a natural extension of our services," said Mark Greatrex, president of Cox Communications, in a statement "With Cox Mobile, we are offering new mobile phone options for consumers; ones that offer flexibility, reliability and the opportunity to save money."
Make no mistake, the No. 3 U.S. MSO is late to the cable mobile party, which is now the fastest growing segment of the mature U.S. wireless business.
Comcast launched Xfinity Mobile in April 2017. It announced in October that it had exceeded 5 million lines of service.
Charter launched Spectrum Mobile in September 2018 and now has more than 4.7 million service lines.
The No. 4 U.S. cable operator, Altice USA, got into the mobile business in 2019 via an MVNO agreement with Sprint (now T-Mobile).
Even the more than 700 small cable companies represented by the National Content and Technology Cooperative (NCTC) might soon have access to a master MVNO deal.
“It’s become such a focal point. It’s the thing everybody seems to think is what you need to have,” NCTC President Lou Borrelli told CNBC. “I’ve seen it referred to as the new bundle. I don’t dispute that.”
Notably, Cox tried to enter the mobile business once before. It shuttered a fledgling attempt back in 2011, claiming its MVNO deal to use Sprint's 3G network couldn't keep up with the 4G competition, and that it couldn't establish licensing deals for "iconic devices" like Apple's iPhone.
Based on that prior relationship with Sprint, T-Mobile sued Cox in October 2021 when it soft-launched its latest mobile efforts, claiming it should be the exclusive Cox Mobile MVNO partner and not Verizon. However, a Delaware court ruled in favor of the cable operator last March.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!