5G and Beyond

Altice USA exploring more mobile offload options

Altice USA's near-term mobile strategy is focused on driving up mobile subscribers and mobile lines. But the company is also looking into ways to offload more mobile traffic and improve margins on its Optimum Mobile product.

"I think there's a huge opportunity" to improve the company's ability to offload mobile data traffic, Altice USA CEO Dennis Mathew said last week at MoffettNathanson's Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference.

Altice USA's mobile data offload is currently happening over Wi-Fi, including the 2 million or so hotspots that have been deployed in the company's footprint covering parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Altice USA previously ran an "AirStrand" pilot with Sprint, its former mobile virtual network (MVNO) partner, focusing on small cells deployed on aerial plant. However, that initiative, once viewed as a tool to offload more mobile data, was unwound following the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and Altice USA's new MVNO agreement with T-Mobile.

(Source: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)

Opportunistic with offload

Mathew didn't outline how Altice USA might expand its ability to offload traffic, other than to say that it would be done "opportunistically." But he said he views mobile offload as a way to "improve the margin profile" of the Optimum Mobile service.

Mathew said Optimum Mobile is profitable at the gross margin level, but he didn't speculate on when it would become net margin positive (after customer acquisition costs).

"There's an opportunity to drive that even further with offload," Mathew said.

Altice USA could pursue that with broader deployments of Wi-Fi or perhaps see if it can tap into the General Authorized Access option in the shared CBRS band.

Cable peers Comcast and Charter Communications are leaning primarily on Wi-Fi for mobile traffic offload and are looking to complement that with deployments of licensed CBRS spectrum in areas where mobile usage is heavily concentrated. Charter is also taking a closer look at other spectrum bands.

Potential offload opportunities aside, Altice USA is getting more aggressive with its mobile product and how it can be more easily combined with fixed broadband services. Earlier this month, the company introduced Optimum Complete, a new mobile/home broadband bundle that offers a year of discounted pricing with its premium whole home Wi-Fi product.

It's too early to know precisely how well Optimum Complete is performing, but Mathew said the package has already led to some top-selling days of the company's mobile product.

Altice USA added 7,600 mobile lines in Q1, for a total of 248,000.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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