Monday, May 5, 2008

Will The Cable Companies Build a Mobile Broadband Network?

Scott Moritz wrote an interesting piece at CNNMoney/Fortune titled Comcast pins hopes on a mobile future. Cable companies Comcast and Time Warner have been negotiating with Sprint, Clearwire, Intel, and Google to launch a joint effort to build a national WiMax network. I've written here in the past about WiMax and the relationships Clearwire, Sprint and Google were building and it makes sense to see the cable companies looking at providing broadband wireless services.

We're seeing some interesting customer movement in the industry - another Fortune piece from May 1 describes Comcast's first quarter earnings, here's a couple of interesting quotes from that piece:

  • Comcast lost 57,000 basic video subscribers, but added 494,000 digital cable subscribers.
  • The company said 65% of video subscribers now have digital service, up from 55% a year ago, and 43% have so-called advanced services like digital video recorders or high-definition TV, up from 38% last year.
  • The company also added 492,000 high-speed Internet users and 639,000 Comcast Digital Voice phone customers.
What's happening? We've got the telcos like Verizon and AT&T chasing new video customers and the cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner chasing new voice customers. Both AT&T and Verizon sell 3G wireless services - it makes sense for the cable companies to add a wireless product and it makes a lot os sense to partner with existing wireless providers like Clearwire and Sprint. JPMorgan analyst Jon Chaplin is quoted in the earlierFortune piece: By creating a joint WiMax venture, "it would cost them a fraction of what it would cost them to build out" their own network or to buy Sprint outright.

Keep watching - the deal could happen as early as this week.

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