Charter Communications entered the 5G fray on Friday, announcing that customers on Spectrum Mobile's unlimited plan can access Verizon's 5G network for no added cost.
Charter signaled in late January that it would add 5G to the menu sometime in the first quarter of 2020. Eligible Spectrum Mobile customers will be able to tap into Verizon's 5G network, over millimeter wave spectrum, in parts of cities such as New York, Charlotte, Dallas and Los Angeles. Verizon plans to expand mmWave 5G service to about 60 cities in 2020, about double its current total.
Spectrum Mobile, which delivers service via an MVNO deal with Verizon alongside access to its own Wi-Fi network, noted that customers on its "By the Gig" plan will remain 4G-only and will need to switch to Spectrum Mobile's unlimited plan to access 5G.
Charter, which has expressed interest in participating in upcoming midband spectrum auctions, is running a different playbook with 5G than its MVNO partner. Last August, Verizon announced a handful of unlimited pricing plans, with four offering 5G services for an additional $10 per month. Speaking at an investor conference earlier this week, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis reasoned that it makes sense for the carrier to charge extra for 5G if the experience is "differentiated" from 4G.
Meanwhile, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are not charging extra for access to their respective 5G networks.
Spectrum Mobile's unlimited plan sells for $45 per month for each line. Its By the Gig plan costs $14 per gigabyte, and allows data sharing between up to five lines. Charter doesn't break down mobile customers by plan, but Spectrum Mobile added 288,000 lines in the fourth quarter of 2019, ending the year with about 1.08 million.
In line with the 5G service capability, Charter also announced it is now carrying Samsung's new 5G-enabled phones – the Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G and Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G – at Spectrum stores, online at SpectrumMobile.com or by calling in direct.
Charter is hawking the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G for $58.34 per month for 24 months or $1,399.99; the S20+5G for $50 per month or $1,199.99; and the Galaxy S20 5G for $41.67 per month (Charter's site did not provide the standalone purchase price on that model as of this writing). Charter, for a limited time, is also giving $200 credits to Spectrum Mobile customers who trade in their existing phone to purchase a Galaxy S20 series phone.
Comcast, which also has an MVNO with Verizon, has not announced its 5G service plans, but expects to announce those "soon," an official said. Meanwhile, Comcast, which ended 2019 with 2.05 million Xfinity Mobile lines, currently offers two Samsung 5G phones – the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G and the Galaxy S20+5G.
- Charter's Spectrum Mobile starts hawking Samsung's 5G phones
- Verizon doubles down on mmWave 5G with new 60-city deployment goal
- Verizon sneaks $10/month 5G fee into new unlimited plans
- Verizon CFO: COVID-19 hasn't affected us... yet
- Charter to add 5G to the menu in Q1, will 'likely' be a participant in CBRS auction
- FCC OKs midband moves for 5G
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading