Cable carrier Cox Communications is branching out with a new wireless service.
The company today launched its Cox Wireless mobile phone and high-speed Internet service with the enticement of what it's calling the "Unbelievably Fair" MoneyBack Minutes program. Mobile subscribers who use the service can get up to $20 per month back on any unused minutes.
Banking on consumer dissatisfaction with existing mobile phone plans, Cox said it's the first wireless carrier to make such a money-back offer. More than that, the addition of the wireless service to Cox's existing package of video, Internet, and landline phone options marks the country's first such "quadruple play."
Over the past year or so, cable giant Comcast has begun offering data-focused 4G wireless broadband service in an increasing number of markets.
The Cox Wireless service (PDF) offers subscribers traditional cell phones along with several Android smartphones, including the HTC Desire, the Motorola Milestone, the LG Axis, and the Samsung Profile. It's available now to customers in three markets (PDF): Hampton Roads, Virginia; Omaha, Nebraska; and Orange County, California.
Cox's wireless service has been on the drawing board for several years.
In 2005, Cox and other cable providers announced plans to team up with Sprint Nextel to bundle a wireless service for their customers. After those plans fell apart, Cox decided to build its own wireless network. But to dive into the market more quickly, Cox is initially working with Sprint Nextel to resell the carrier's own 3G wireless services. Cox Wireless was scheduled to launch in March.
While the new service rolls out, Cox is using $550 million worth of spectrum space that it bought in the Federal Communication Commission's Advanced Wireless Services and 700 MHz wireless auctions to build its own 3G EV-DO network. The company said that it eventually plans to move up to 4G LTE technology.
Beyond offering the MoneyBack Minutes program, Cox is attempting to help customers avoid unexpected overage charges. The company said it will send out free text message Usage Alert warnings to subscribers when they approach the maximum number of monthly minutes and messages on their plans.
As further incentive to subscribe to the new wireless service, Cox said it will let existing customers choose one free upgrade if they add Cox Wireless. Cable subscribers can opt for a premium channel, such as HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax. Internet subscribers can jump from Preferred to Premier for faster download speeds. And home phone customers can add unlimited domestic long-distance calling to their plans.