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It has been said that cable’s major advantage over telcos and satellite tv is its ability to offer the “triple play” of video, voice and data over a single line. The ability to leverage its existing service to capture additional revenue streams gives it a unique edge that has been behind the telco’s own fiber roll-out.

At the same time, the telcos have enjoyed the advantage of wireless spectrum and services, which are largely replacing land-lines for voice service anyway. This gave the telcos a different triple-play: voice, data and wireless.

Thus the race was on to be the first to offer a quadruple play that included all four services: video, voice, data and wireless. The telcos partnered with satellite companies, the cable companies partnered with independent wireless player Sprint-Nextel (NYSE:S), and the telcos started their fiber expansion. But these interim partnerships appeared to us to be of limited value. There is no cost savings to the Bell companies from reselling satellite video - unlike video and data over the same pipe satellite was a different pipe, and one they didn’t own. Likewise for the cable companies offering wireless service. Until now.

Barron’s Tech Trader Daily reports:

In one of the first concrete steps to emerge from a partnership agreement signed last November between Sprint Nextel and four major cable companies, Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWX) is reportedly making plans to roll out a dual-band wireless phone service with handsets that can alternate between VOIP over WiFi and cellular networks. According to the web site Light Reading, other participants in the project will include Siemens (SI) and BridgePort Networks, which together will provide the necessary network hardware.

This means that while in the customer’s home, the phone will connect via WiFi to the cable modem and use the cable pipe. When the customer is mobile it will revert to the Sprint wireless network.

Granted, this has been tried before. Each of the Bells has toyed with a mobile/landline combo phone, and the plans have gone nowhere. Yet the idea remains attractive enough that companies keep trying. One day it might work. And if it does, it will be something that provides true differentiation. Until, that is, it is copied.

S-TWX 1-yr comparison chart:

S-TWX 1-yr

Source: Sprint and Time Warner's Quadruple Play (S, SI, TWX)