Cox Goes Mobile in 3 Test Markets

Cox Communications today inched closer to a full-blown deployment of wireless offerings by launching its mobile phone and high-speed Internet services in the test markets of Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb. and Orange County, Calif. But the company has yet to disclose pricing or any other details that will help determine whether the longtime cable operator can compete in the world of mobile.

Cox said it will expand across the initial three markets next year, growing its workforce in each by roughly 20 percent through its own retail locations. It plans to eventually offer enterprise services to its existing business customers.

The Atlanta-area telecom announced plans to jump into the mobile space last year and has since moved quickly toward that goal. Cox in 2008 spent $304 million to acquire 22 spectrum licenses as part of the 700 MHz auction, and has tapped Chinese gear vendor Huawei to build out its CDMA network. Meanwhile, it’s secured a roaming agreement with Sprint (s s) to augment service while the network is completed.

As Stacey noted last year, the triple play of voice, video and data has been successful for cable operators, so a quadruple play that adds wireless is particularly attractive. And Cox’s installed base of 6.2 million residential and business cable customers could prove fertile soil for integrated services offered in bundles. We still don’t know how much Cox’s service will cost, what kind of handsets it will offer or how it might differentiate itself from the entrenched mobile players, but new competition in mobile broadband could be very good news for users. And it just may help assuage federal regulators who appear increasingly antsy to intervene in the industry.