SpectrumCo, LLC, a joint venture between Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks, is selling Verizon Wireless its 122 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum licenses covering 259 million POPs for $3.6 billion. What might be noteworthy is the strategic change of direction. The cable companies purchased the AWS spectrum at least in part as a potential foundation for wireless service.

The sale, and the agreement by the owners to resell Verizon Wireless services instead, suggests the cable operators once again have decided that they could not create independent wireless operations.

Moreover, given the business relationship cable companies have had with Sprint since at least 1994, the move also suggests that the cable operators are breaking with the idea of Sprint as a strategic partner. Since cable companies have been among the potential buyers of Sprint Nextel, the latest moves would seem to indicate no interest in that area.

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Cable TV operators have been spending money to get into the wireless business for decades, with little success. In 1994 Sprint, Tele-Communications, Comcast and Cox Cable formed a joint venture to build a nationwide network to provide wireless service.

However in 1998, Sprint assumed control of the business and bought the cable companies’ interest in the company.

In 2005 Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Advance/Newhouse formed a joint venture with Sprint Nextel to provide a quad-play cable TV, high-speed data, landline and wireless service to their customers. But the quad-play idea never panned out and Pivot never grew beyond the initial 33 markets Sprint launched in November 2007.

Sprint said that Pivot was being hindered by provisioning issues. Time Warner later said that demand for Pivot services was “tepid.” Pivot users eventually were given the option of switching to Sprint’s regular service.

In 2008, Sprint and Clearwire announced that they would combine their WiMAX businesses and create a new company that would include a $3.2 billion investment from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Trilogy Equity Partners. Cable wireless history

Recently, Cox Communications decided to shutter its own wireless business as well.

Comcast owns 63.6 percent of SpectrumCo and will receive approximately $2.3 billion from the sale. Time Warner Cable owns 31.2 percent of SpectrumCo and will receive approximately $1.1 billion. Bright House Networks owns 5.3 percent of SpectrumCo and will receive approximately $189 million. Comcast, Time Warner Cable sell spectrum to Verizon

The companies also announced that they have entered into several agreements that apparently will allow cable companies to sell wholesale Verizon Wireless service, and give Verizon the right to sell unspecified cable products.

Additionally, the cable companies and Verizon Wireless have formed an innovation technology joint venture for the development of technology to better integrate wireline and wireless products and services.

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