Puzzled by Cox!

I have to admit that I am slightly puzzled by Cox’s decision to go the CDMA route for their wireless network in the 700MHz band. Apparently Huawei beat out both Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel to win the business. Cox spent more than US$304 million on 22 licenses during the 700MHz-spectrum auction that wrapped up in March. It is also part of the SpectrumCo consortium, which also includes cable operators Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks and holds nearly US$2.4 billion worth of AWS spectrum.

While CDMA operators all over the world (Telstra in Australia, Reliance in India) are moving away from CDMA to GSM/UMTS networks (some like Telus are thinking of building an overlay LTE network) to benefit from the wide variety of handset choices available in the 3G/UMTS world (think 3G iPhone), it is a little surprising that Cox has decided to build a greenfield CDMA network.

My first thought was that the availability of 700MHz base stations that support UMTS could have been the problem. But a quick look at Huawei’s unified BTS reveals dual-mode operation support for either CDMA + LTE or UMTS + LTE – enabling operators to migrate from either UMTS or CDMA to LTE. In addition, Ericsson as well as Nokia Siemens Networks have both announced 700MHz products that support HSPA as well as LTE. This is not entirely surprising given that AT&T (one of Ericsson’s biggest customers) has loaded up on 700MHz spectrum. Of course, Huawei alone supports the CDMA flavor – but why CDMA?

The only remaining rationale that I can come up with is that Cox has some CDMA experience, thanks to its involvement in the Pivot project with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and CDMA operator Sprint Nextel. This venture was announced as a way of giving the three cable operators a quadruple-play package, but it proved too complicated to sell effectively and was shuttered in April.

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Filed under HSPA, LTE, mobile broadband

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