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Cox Communications Launches Cell Service

First cable provider to start mobile network debuts in California, Nebraska and Virginia using 700-MHz spectrum.

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Cox Communications launched its wireless mobile phone network Friday, delivering on its vow to become the first cable provider to offer its own home-grown cell service. The service debuted in Orange County, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; and Hampton Roads, Va.

Beginning with a full complement of mobile handsets, the service also offers novel subscriber innovations, including a “MoneyBack Minutes” feature whereby Cox will provide cash back on bills for unused minutes each month -- up to $20 a month. Cox will also send free text alerts to subscribers warning when they are near their monthly limits for minutes and messages.

The third-largest cable provider, behind Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Cox purchased a block of spectrum in the FCC’s 700-MHz auction two years ago, so its eventual move into wireless has been long anticipated. The three regions with the Cox wireless service are already served by Cox with typical cable-telephone-Internet bundles. Based in Atlanta, Cox also bought spectrum in Atlanta and as well as New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas and a few other scattered regions of the U.S. The company has said it plans eventually to expand beyond the three regions getting the service today.

"Wireless consumers have long been underserved on customer service," Gary McCollum, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Virginia, said in a statement. "We went a step further by introducing new services and features to the Cox bundle that are built on fairness."

The company said it decided to institute the consumer-friendly features after its research revealed that consumers were frustrated with surprise overage charges on their bills. The company is offering several advanced handsets and smartphones, including HTC’s Desire, Hero and Wildfire, as well as the Motorola Milestone, the LG Axis, and Samsung’s Messager Touch and Profile. In addition, several feature phones and data modems will be available in the three regions.

Cox has established a network of Solutions Stores with “Learning Lounges,”,which consumers can visit to get help setting up their new wireless devices.

The company carried out trials in the three regions beginning last year with Sprint Nextel supplying much of the roaming service beyond the Cox service areas. Sprint Nextel and other carriers will continue to provide roaming capability for Cox subscribers.

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