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MCI makes new wireless cable move

The long distance firm reportedly buys another wireless cable company, continuing its push for alternative broadband access.

MCI WorldCom has purchased another wireless cable firm, this time looking for wireless broadband access in Los Angeles, according to media reports.

The long distance company has reportedly bought the Tele-TV division of Prime One Cable, which could give it broadband access to millions of customers in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, according to cable news service CNBC.

MCI WorldCom and Sprint have spent the last two months bidding against each other for a handful of wireless cable companies around the country, in an attempt to find new ways to reach homes directly without going through the local telephone networks.

The companies are playing catch-up to AT&T's similar--if far more ambitious--strategy of buying traditional cable companies such as Tele-Communications Incorporated and MediaOne. All three long distance companies want to offer packages of local and long distance service, high-speed Internet, and video programming to their customers.

The wireless cable companies, most of which have struggled in and out of bankruptcy for the last several years, beam video programming directly to a subscribers' home. But the technology can also be used for a high-speed Internet connections or local telephone service.

In an ironic twist, the Tele-TV properties were once owned by Pacific Bell, which was acquired by SBC Communications, according to Tele-TV. SBC sold the assets after deciding to get out of the cable business. Now, however, the Tele-TV wireless division may be used to compete directly with SBC's own local phone service when MCI WorldCom rolls out its plans for local telephony.

Prime One and MCI WorldCom declined to comment on the reported purchase.