Sprint Nextel Corp. and four large cable television providers will move
beyond the Holy Grail of integrated telecommunications offerings — the
so-called triple play of voice, data and video — with a joint venture
aimed at adding wireless service to the mix.
The joint venture, announced Wednesday, aims to integrate Sprint
Nextel’s wireless service with voice, data and video services offered
by the cable giants for a quadruple play by 2006. The five companies —
including Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc. and
Advance/Newhouse Communications Inc. — plan to offer cobranded
wireless devices that integrate cable TV programming, also by 2006.
One of the goals of the collaboration is to provide live cable
broadcasts over handheld mobile devices, said James Fisher, a Sprint
Nextel spokesman. “It takes the customer experience to a whole new
level,” Fisher said of the joint venture.
Sprint Nextel will invest US$100 million into the joint venture, and
the four cable providers will jointly contribute another $100 million.
The joint agreement runs for 20 years and is mutually exclusive for
The announcement comes after Apple Computer Inc. last month launched
downloads for a new video-capable version of its iPod device. At the
same time, large telecommunications carriers are beginning to offer
video over IP (Internet Protocol) service in competition with the cable
providers, with Verizon Communications Inc. launching its fiber-optic
video service in Keller, Texas, in September, and SBC Communications
Inc. receiving approval this week from the Public Utility Commission of
Texas to launch its own video service in the San Antonio, Texas, area.
But the joint agreement between Sprint Nextel and the cable providers
was in the works before the recent announcements from competitors, with
the cable providers talking about such a project for about a year, said
a Comcast spokeswoman. The joint venture will offer a “far better
experience” than triple-play services currently offered by competitors,
The companies envision several services, including customers being able
to program their digital video recorders from a Web site or a mobile
phone, the spokeswoman said. The companies will use Sprint Nextel’s
EV-DO (evolution data optimized) broadband wireless service to offer
cable services over so-called next-generation wireless phones..
Customers will be able to pay for the quadruple play of services on one bill, the spokeswoman added.
Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst, in an e-mail commentary
called the announcement “a home run” for Sprint Nextel, which will have
coast-to-coast access to cable television programming over wireless
“This is the blurring of television and telephones,” he added. “The
potential is great, and it changes the way we think about these
services, combining them, rather than using separate products on
The agreement is also important for the cable providers in their
efforts to compete with large telecom carriers, Kagan added. “We are
seeing a new war brewing between the cable TV and telephone companies,”
he said. “Yesterday customers used both, but tomorrow they will be able
to choose one or the other for everything, telephone, television,
high-speed internet and wireless service.”
By Grant Gross – IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)