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Cable TV to add mobile phone service

Four cable television providers have announced a long-awaited deal to deliver their own cell phone services through Sprint Nextel, creating a set of voice, video, Internet and wireless products.

The agreement includes Comcast, the cable division of Time Warner, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications. They will invest a combined $100 million in the new venture with Sprint Nextel. Sprint Nextel will also contribute $100 million. The alliance could soon be expanded to include other cable companies, the Associated Press reported.

Under the deal, the products to be released next year will be co-branded by Sprint Nextel and the cable company serving the market where the customer lives. Prices for the cellular services will vary by market, determined by an individual agreement between Sprint Nextel and the cable company serving that territory. Each cable company will provide customer service for cell phone subscribers within its territory and bundle the charges for wireless on a single bill.

The alliance also includes plans for an array of converged products melding phone, cable, Internet and wireless services, though the companies did not indicate when those might be introduced.

The move into wireless by the cable companies follows a major push into residential phone service, another effort to protect their business from an emergence into cable TV by the nation’s two largest telephone companies, Verizon and SBC Communications.

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