& cplSiteName &

Comcast & Charter Seal Wireless Pact

Mari Silbey

Less than two weeks after the conclusion of the FCC's mandated quiet period, Comcast and Charter have forged an alliance to pursue collaborative technology development in the wireless space. Additionally, the two companies have agreed not to sign any independent agreements with US national mobile carriers for a full year, precluding the possibility of a potential merger between one of the cable operators and one of the big four wireless companies. If Comcast and Charter were to seek further dealings with a carrier during the next 12 months, they would have to do so together.

The partnership between Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. carries numerous implications for the cable and wireless industries. It's not clear yet if the two cable operators are considering co-marketing services together, although both companies are relying on the same national mobile footprint via MVNO agreements with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). However, they have pledged to join forces to take advantage of their combined scale in product and technology development, which should make them more competitive against the existing mobile carriers. This collaboration includes the potential for working together in "creating common operating platforms; technical standards development and harmonization; device forward and reverse logistics; and emerging wireless technology platforms."

In many ways, the partnership sounds almost like a CableLabs association. Members in CableLabs coordinate on technology development and work to create an ecosystem of cable technology that everyone in the industry can take advantage of. In the case of this new deal, only Comcast and Charter invest resources and reap the rewards, but those two companies are also the two operators with the largest presence (and influence) in CableLabs in the US. The deal potentially leaves other cable operators on the outs, but then again, it's not clear that other US cable operators are interested yet in a pursuing a mobile agenda.

There's another interesting dynamic here as well. As much as Comcast and Charter are part of the fraternally minded cable industry, the two companies also often act as foils for each other where technology development is concerned. They developed their own video ecosystems, with Comcast focused on X1, and Charter pursuing its World Box set-top strategy. Comcast has also always been part of the Cable WiFi alliance, while Charter is only involved now through its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Legacy Charter never joined the Cable WiFi group.

The fact that Comcast and Charter are coming together now in mobile suggests that the advantages in scale they can offer each other are just too large to ignore.

Want to know more about cable's wireless ambitions? Check out our cable WiFi channel here on Light Reading.

From a mobile carrier perspective, the big four operators may now find themselves fretting over a new and stronger wireless competitor. However, a cable partnership was also not wholly unexpected as consolidation continues throughout the broadband, video and wireless industries. The deal between Comcast and Charter also appears to put off the possibility of a merger or acquisition that could have further shaken up the existing mobile landscape. That is, such an M&A deal is off the table for the next year unless the two cable companies go in on a transaction together.

The one thing the new Comcast/Charter deal doesn't solve is either company's lack of spectrum. Comcast recently acquired $1.7 billion worth of spectrum in the 600MHz auction, but that's not enough to create a nationwide network. (See Comcast Wins Spectrum – What's Next?.)

Comcast and Charter may be kicking the spectrum can down the road, or they may be preparing for further coordinated efforts extending from today's wireless deal.

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

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2017 | 4:28:54 PM
Certainly seems like a smart bet in terms of leverage for handset deals and collaborating on WiFi centric MVNO tech.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Ngena's global 'network of networks' solves a problem that the telecom vendors promised us would never exist. That doesn't mean its new service isn't a really good idea.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
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 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
Dell CTO: Public Cloud Is 'Way More Expensive Than Buying From Us'
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 3/19/2018
Eurobites: Cambridge Analytica Feels the Heat
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 3/20/2018
Is Business Voice Rapidly Fading?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/15/2018
Eurobites: BT Hires Sherman as Strategy Tank
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 3/14/2018
Animals with Phones
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