'Pivot' point


The video-broadband-telephone integration of triple-play bundled services has generated powerful buzz throughout the cable industry over the past few years, and now the buzz is about to take a numerical and technological step forward as quadruple play becomes a reality. The fourth component in a four-part bundle is wireless phone service, and just such a bundle has been created by way of a $200 million deal that partners Sprint Nextel with four major multiple system operators: Advance/Newhouse Communications, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable.

The new service, branded as Pivot, does not simply add wireless minutes to existing triple-play plans. Instead, the general concept behind Pivot is that it will allow consumers constant remote access to favorite elements of their home-based media -- photos, music, e-mail, DVR schedules -- much the same way a Treo or BlackBerry has become a mobile, indispensable extension of the workplace. Pivot service gives customers such capabilities as using their Sprint phone to retrieve home e-mails and voice mails, program a DVR or access live television, all through interfaces identical to those in use at home. Additionally, calls between a home phone and wireless phone on the Pivot plan are free.

The service is already available in eight metropolitan areas and is expected to be in nearly 40 markets by year's end. The slower, city-by-city roll-out is unusual for Sprint, which usually introduces services on a national basis, but such a roll-out has allowed for some of the fine-tuned integration that's part of Pivot's allure. "We're pushing the envelope technologically on a lot of the things we're trying to do, so this gives us a chance to get things right," says John Garcia, president of the Sprint/MSO joint venture.