Time Warner Launches Wireless Phone Service

Time Warner Inc's (TWX) cable unit quietly began offering wireless phone service in its first market this week, adding to efforts by big cable operators to offer a full suite of communications services for consumers.

The No. 2 U.S. cable operator said Friday that it had begun selling Sprint Corp. (FON) wireless service in Kansas City Monday, revealing a glimpse into how the cable industry may use wireless to draw customers away from phone companies.

As an enticement to use the new wireless phone service Time Warner Cable is offering free phone calls home to subscribers in Kansas City, who are also subscribers to its digital home phone service.

The company hopes that the free phone calls home will encourage customers of regional phone giants Verizon and other top operators to switch, the company said.

Time Warner's Kansas City operation, which serves about 32,000 digital home phone customers, now includes four products, Time Warner's video, high speed Internet, digital home phone and wireless service.

The package can cost about $40 less than the services sold individually, although savings vary with packages and price plans, the company said.

A company spokesman said the company has "no further roll-out plans" for the wireless phone service at this time.

Sprint and Time Warner Cable want to find more ways to more creatively integrate features of the cable and media world with the wireless industry, said Dale Fox, vice president of digital phone at Time Warner Cable.

"Time Warner Cable is a big seller and provider of in-home wireless networks," Fox said. "We have a (wireless) tie in there and we're waiting for the right equipment...," and vendors to enable cellphone users to move cellphone calls to wireless digital home networks.

That could save money for subscribers and air traffic for wireless carriers.

Time Warner Cable in Kansas City also is testing a service to stream game and news broadcasts from its MetroSports (search) network to Sprint phones.

It's not such a stretch to imagine being able to grab e-mail from Time Warner's Road Runner high speed Internet service (search) on wireless phones, Fox said.