Updated June 30 at 5:30pm

Wireless partnership sign of future

As business ventures go, Cox Communications’ foray into the competitive wireless-phone market was a short one.

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Focus: TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Wireless partnership sign of future

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As business ventures go, Cox Communications’ foray into the competitive wireless-phone market was a short one.

Just six months after the Ocean State’s dominant cable television and Internet provider launched its wireless service here, the company announced in November that it would be getting out of the mobile-phone game because of a “lack of scale” to compete.

As sudden as it was, Cox’s rapid exit from the mobile-phone arena was far from unusual in the now rapidly consolidating wireless market.

The company’s decision last month to sell the wireless-spectrum licenses that it had been building a network on to telecommunications giant Verizon followed similar moves from fellow cable providers Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks.

Indeed, the smartphone and mobile-computing explosion of the past few years has accelerated a move toward wireless consolidation as the leading providers, of which Verizon is the largest, race to build larger and faster networks to meet the demand of data-hungry consumers.

What is different about Cox, and the other cable companies, selling wireless spectrum to Verizon is that for years the cable and phone industries have been viewed as rivals fighting for control of future electronic media distribution.

And not only have Cox, Comcast and Time Warner sold spectrum to Verizon, they have each entered partnerships with the telecom company that will allow wireless phone service to be included in cable packages and cable television in wireless-phone packages.

In addition, the companies have agreed to form an “innovation-technology joint venture to better integrate wireline and wireless products and services,” they announced in a joint press release Dec. 16.

According to telecommunications-industry analyst Ross Rubin at market-research firm NPD Group, although telecom and television historically have been competitors, their markets are distinct enough to make cooperation beneficial, especially since Verizon’s recent decision not to expand its FiOS network beyond areas already slated for service.

“They are competitors, but competitors with very different dynamics,” Rubin said. “With Verizon deciding not to further pursue building-out FiOS into new markets, that helps open the door for more collaboration with cable companies. With this additional spectrum, Verizon can build out more robust 4G offerings and better coverage and the cable companies can take advantage of it whenever possible.”

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