& cplSiteName &

Altice & Sprint Ink MVNO Deal

Mari Silbey

It's time for the rise of the cable MVNOs. A year ago there were no major cable operators in the US offering cellular services. A year from now, it looks like three of the top four US cablecos will be hawking new wireless wares -- Comcast and Charter through their agreement with Verizon, and now Altice through a new agreement with number-four mobile carrier Sprint.

Altice USA announced a mobile virtual network operator agreement Sunday with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) that will give Altice full access to the cellular company's mobile network. In return, Sprint will gain use of the cable operator's wireline infrastructure to support fiber densification for increased wireless backhaul capacity.

The deal comes literally on the heels of news that merger talks between Sprint and T-Mobile US Inc. have fallen through once again. In the race for industry consolidation, the agreement between Altice and Sprint will give both sides greater scale and perhaps the competitive boost each needs to continue to face off against larger rivals. (See Sprint, T-Mobile Merger Falls Apart (Again!).)

According to the announcement, Altice will have significant flexibility in how it chooses to leverage the Sprint mobile network. The cable company says it will "have control over the Altice USA mobile features, functionality, and customer experience."

This is exactly how Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) CEO Mike Fries advised the US cable industry last month to conduct any MVNO deals going forward. Speaking at the SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, Fries noted that, "What we've learned is if you're going to go MVNO... you need a full MVNO. You need a thick MVNO. You need to control the customer experience, core network." (See Liberty Has Some Mobile Advice for US Cable.)

Altice hasn't yet said how it will structure any new mobile service, but one major question is whether the company will stick to selling its new wireless offering within its existing broadband footprint. That's how Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is selling its Xfinity Mobile service today through its MVNO agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). When asked for further detail, an Altice spokesperson said simply, "We have not yet announced our go-to-market timing and details."

In public comments last week where he confirmed that MVNO talks with mobile carriers were taking place, Altice USA Chairman & CEO Dexter Goei said company officials saw no need to own their own wireless network today. “So we are looking at partnering up potentially with a mobile operator who will provide us with access to his network," he said.

Meanwhile for Sprint, Altice offers a substantial fiber footprint that the wireless carrier says will support its "network densification efforts and establish a differentiated network operating model going forward." However, the Altice footprint is limited compared to Sprint's nationwide wireless infrastructure. While the cable company has committed to running fiber throughout its territory to homes and businesses, the bulk of that area is centered on the New York tri-state region and parts of the south-central US. Although those are large markets and Altice has 4.9 million residential and business customers across the country, the cable company's reach certainly won't cover Sprint's entire customer base.

For more cable market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated cable content channel here on Light Reading.

Of note, Altice and Sprint took no time sealing up their deal once talks officially broke off (again) between Sprint and T-Mobile. There had been rumors that Charter Communications Inc. and Sprint were also interested in a tie-up, but Charter already has its Verizon MVNO agreement plus the benefit of a deal to collaborate with Comcast on mobile technology development. Charter CEO Tom Rutledge has also said there is the possibility that Charter and Comcast could form a more concrete operational partnership focused on the wireless sector in the future. (See Comcast & Charter Seal Wireless Pact and Charter Touts Gig Plans as Earnings Slide.)

Some months ago there was also talk that Charter and Comcast might go in on an MVNO deal with Sprint together. And that may still be a possibility given that there's no mention that the Sprint deal with Altice is an exclusive one. (See Charter, Comcast Eye Sprint Tie-Up – Report.)

A decade ago, several cable companies tried something similar with Sprint in a joint venture called Pivot. That effort went nowhere, but perhaps it was just ten years ahead of its time.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
8/10/2018 | 5:20:04 AM
Growth of full MVNOs
Advice on becoming a full MVNO to be more profitable is not restricted to cable MVNOs only. This must be true for any MVNOs in general especially those with large user population of outbound roamers. They need to look for agreements more advantageous for them and the ones that can bring them more profile. 
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 6, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
T-Mobile to Play the Customer Care Card With Layer3 TV
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, 8/15/2018
Australia Could Open 5G Door to Huawei
Robert Clark, 8/16/2018
Video Navigation Gets an AI Assist
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, 8/16/2018
Eurobites: Deutsche Telekom Pulls Out of Iran
Iain Morris, International Editor, 8/17/2018
Animals with Phones
When Your Cat Hijacks Your Tech Click Here
Latest Comment
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed