Cox Communications, the nation’s third largest cable company, launched a key competitive challenge against established wireless industry heavyweights as it confirmed plans to launch mobile phone services via its own wireless network infrastructure. Wireless would form the fourth prong of the Cox service bundle, which already includes digital video, high-speed Internet and IP-based phone services carried over the company’s nationwide cable network. Through FCC auctions of advanced wireless service and 700 MHz spectrum conducted between 2006 and this year, Cox has acquired enough wireless spectrum to cover 76% of its existing wireline footprint as well as a population of 23 million. (Cox’s residential and business subscriber base now stands at 6.2 million.) Under the plan, Cox intends to build out its FCC-authorized wireless spectrum in areas surrounding New Orleans, Atlanta, San Diego, Omaha, Las Vegas and throughout much of Kansas and southern New Mexico, with the goal of launching service next year. Cox would also join forces with Sprint Nextel, which has agreed to provide roaming services for Cox wireless customers outside of areas covered by the Cox network. According to Stephen Bye, the vice president of Cox’s wireless operations, customers would be able to purchase Cox-branded handsets equipped with a host of features that would enable subscribers to interact with or access Cox video, Internet and e-mail offerings via their cell phones. Asserting that, “wireless service will be a key driver to Cox’s future growth,” Cox President Pat Esser proclaimed: “we are uniquely positioned to deliver the entertainment and communications services our customers want, whenever, however and wherever they want them.”