Cox Communications plans to launch its own wireless network next year to compete with telecom shops and rival cable providers.

The privately held Atlanta cable operator said Monday it will use Sprint Nextel's ( S) nationwide network next year to quickly enter the wireless market, while it build its own high-speed 3G network to launch in late 2009.

Cox's forthcoming wireless service will join its digital cable, high-speed Internet and telephone bundle, which the company said it hopes will help it better compete with AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ), which have entered the fiercely competitive video and broadband Internet market with their respective U-verse and FiOS offerings.

Additionally, Cox will test 4G wireless technology using long-term evolution, or LTE, which AT&T and Verizon are also preparing for next-generation data transfers.

"Wireless service will be a key driver to Cox's future growth," said Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications, in a statement. Esser added that the company has already invested more than $500 million to acquire wireless spectrum in auctions held by the Federal Communications Commission.

Cox Communications, which was publicly traded until 2004, is the third-largest cable provider in the U.S. with more than 6.2 million customers.

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