updated 08:45 am EST, Fri November 19, 2010
Cox cellphone service finally live
Cox today switched on its long promised cellular service with an aim to undercut its rivals on price. The service will hinge on a concept known as MoneyBack Minutes that rewards light users. Instead of rollover minutes or losing them entirely, users shed as much as $20 off of their monthly bills if they don't use talk time.
The carrier is also heading off FCC investigations by messaging customers with notifications when they get close to their voice and text limits. Cox's tie-ins to its existing services give free calling both to fellow Cox cellphone users as well as its cable-based VoIP. Anyone with an Advanced TV bundle can also get an extra premium channel for free.
Initial service is limited to Hampton Roads in Virginia, Omaha in Nebraska and Orange County in California, though it should expand to reach Cox's cable coverage map over time. Although buying time on Sprint's network, plans vary sharply and range between $40 for 450 minutes and no extras to $100 for unlimited voice, data and messages with family plans adding $20 to $30 more. Those not on an unlimited plan can add 300 messages a month for $5, 1,500 messages for $15 and an unlimited amount for $20 or $30 for individual and family plans respectively.
Data is always unlimited and costs $15 per month on a non-smartphone or $30 for smartphones, but the $30 plan also provides unlimited messaging. Cox's early phone roster is very Android-focused and includes HTC's Desire, Hero and Wildfire, the LG Axis and the Motorola Milestone (Droid on Verizon). Messaging and basic phones from Kyocera, LG and Samsung also join the mix, as does a U210 USB modem for data-only access.
Despite borrowing another provider's connection, the Cox plan is one of the first new, major carriers to launch in the US and could eventually provide competition for Sprint itself as well as incumbents like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Its phone lineup is dictated mostly by existing availability but would be eligible to use the same CDMA iPhone increasingly expected for Verizon and which might reach other American CDMA carriers as well.