Cable giant Time Warner is said to be in talks with Sprint to provide cell phone service to its cable customers. The deal would make Time Warner the only major cable company to offer wireless service as part of its "bundle" of offerings.
Telephone and cable companies have been in a race to provide a quadruple play -- telephone, television, wireless and high-speed Internet service. The theory is that customers who get all four services from a single company on a single monthly bill will be much less likely to switch to another provider.
Verizon, SBC and BellSouth all provide telephone, wireless and Internet service but, except for scattered local-market tests, must rely on satellite to fill the television part of the package.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Time Warner is close to finalizing a deal with Sprint, though neither company would publicly confirm that. Time Warner would initially test the service in Kansas City, probably in early 2005, before rolling it out to its other markets.
Time Warner has already made itself into a major player in the local telephone business, which it now provides in all 31 of its major markets, with about 200,000 telephone subscribers expected by year's end. The company has 11 million cable subscribers.
It's expected that Time Warner will put its brand name on the cell phone service, with Sprint providing the underlying network. Sprint has similar deals with ESPN and Virgin Mobile, among others.