Cox launches FWA trial to provide internet in rural areas

BARCELONA—Cable player Cox is busy at Mobile World Congress 2023 raising awareness of its mobile services and plans for convergence, but back home, it’s also looking for new ways to serve rural communities within its footprint.

Cox is conducting a proof-of-concept fixed wireless trial using 5G technology outside of Macon, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to deliver high-speed internet to customers in underserved and rural communities, the company said.

“We're committed to creating digital equity in the communities we serve. We're hopeful this is another tool we can provide to help connect people to what matters most,” a spokesperson told Fierce via email.  

The company did not say what spectrum it’s using for the trial.

In 2020, it acquired Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum for $212 million.

Last month, the Atlanta-based company announced that it’s working with several vendors to deliver Cox Private Networks using not only CBRS but other spectrum bands. Brett Lasher, GM of Cox Private Networks, told Fierce that it’s using whatever available spectrum makes the most sense depending on a particular deployment.

Cox, which has dabbled in wireless on and off over the years, officially launched its Verizon-powered MVNO service at CES in January. In launching mobile services, it’s following in the footsteps of fellow cable companies Comcast and Charter Communications.

One way it’s trying to stand out from the competition is through simple payment plans. It offers Pay As You Gig, which is for customers who may not need an unlimited data plan and prefer to only pay for the data they need, and Gig Unlimited  

In the coming months, Cox plans to offer customers the ability to save data usage by connecting to their Cox Internet service or to one of its 4 million Wi-Fi hotspots.

Cox launched a national ad campaign with a commercial during the Super Bowl that showcases computer-generated sheep with the message that it’s different and doesn’t follow the flock.

A different kind of convergence

During a Cox-hosted event at MWC on Tuesday evening, company executives talked about their mission to get the word out about their mobile services and the desire for convergence, i.e., initially, to bundle services for a better pricing proposition but to go beyond that.

The privately held company isn’t getting real specific about the “beyond” part, except to offer some examples like leveraging wireless as a consumer safety net during outages and prioritized speeds for converged services.

“There are so many ideas” and use cases for convergence, said Cox AVP of Connectivity & Convergence Catherine Borda de Castro, adding that many new ideas are coming from Cox executives’ time spent at MWC.

“I think soon we’ll start messaging more in terms of what’s coming up, probably in the next couple of months,” she said. “This is much more than just a pricing bundle” and more about seamless connectivity between services. “Still working through what’s going to be the most compelling positioning” for talking to consumers about convergence in a way that “just feels like, ‘Oh this makes sense.’”

Where’s the iPhone?

One glaring thing that’s missing is the iPhone. During Tuesday’s event, Daniel Graham, AVP, Strategic Partnerships at Cox, didn’t specifically mention Apple’s iPhone but said they eventually it will have “all the iconic devices people would expect.” 

Wave7 Research has reported that Samsung likely has 100% share of handset sales via Cox Mobile, said principal Jeff Moore. “No iPhones, no Motorola,” he told Fierce.

Apple is notorious about protecting its iPhone brand, so it’s not surprising that it’s taking a while. However, since December, reps at Cox stores have been guiding to an upcoming launch of iPhones, and it looks like that may happen in early 2023, Moore said.