Can You Hear Me Now, Cable Guys?

As my Foolish colleague Anders Bylund told you, the cable guys may -- just may -- be getting off the dime and adding wireless offerings to their repertoire, such that their triple play could become a quadruple play. Were they to do so, the competitive landscape could change dramatically.

We, of course, don't really know yet whether cable industry kingpin Comcast (NYSE: CMCSA  ) , along with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) and a couple of privately owned cable companies, will actually give birth to a new wireless company. If that were to occur, however, the company apparently would be operated by Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) and Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) . Importantly, it would use WiMAX technology, which would make it possible to offer Web access and top-notch mobile video to subscribers.

But as a former cable and broadcasting analyst/dart thrower, I'm applauding madly about the prospect -- you just can't see or hear me. For whatever reason, investors have long shaken in their boots about a string of perceived competitors they believed were about to tear cable asunder. Now, in my rarely tentative opinion, I believe that a successful startup of a wireless entity effectively serving cable would do wonders to tilt the competitive playing field in cable's direction:

  • The ability to offer up a quadruple play of video, telephone service, and high-speed data, along with wireless, would place Comcast and its peers on at least an undeniable par with telcos Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) .
  • Vis-a-vis satellite providers DirecTV (NYSE: DTV  ) and Dish Network, the addition of wireless would propel cable to a gaping bundling advantage.

My biggest concern is that, even given a decision to move forward with the apparently yet unnamed company, the cable folks would undertake the effort with their traditional glacial pace. That frustrating tendency has long prevented them from maximizing the value of either video-on-demand or interactive television.

So let's hope that cable moves forward on a wireless addition and does so with an unusual (for it) sense of urgency. Should it do so, the "slowly nibble" rating that I've concocted for Comcast would likely be jacked up at least one notch.

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