Cable companies Comcast and Charter said they will soon add 5G to their mobile offerings via sales of the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S20 5G smartphone. However, neither company would comment on whether it would charge extra for the service.
"We'll be introducing 5G plans soon and will let you know then," a Comcast representative wrote in response to questions from Light Reading on the topic.
"We'll have more details on that as we get closer to March 6," a Charter representative noted, pointing to the device's launch date.
The Galaxy S20 5G is important because it will support 5G in both highband, millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum bands as well as other spectrum bands. Today's initial batch of 5G phones can't do that – they can support either highband 5G or lowband 5G, but not both.
Verizon boasted that its Galaxy S20 5G will support its mmWave 5G and the lowband 5G it plans to launch "later this year."
Both Comcast's Xfinity Mobile MVNO and Charter's Spectrum Mobile MVNO piggyback on Verizon's network. That means both companies are essentially at the mercy of Verizon when it comes to 4G and 5G network performance and coverage.
Verizon, for its part, has been building out 5G in parts of some cities via mmWave spectrum. But, although both Comcast and Charter have promised to launch 5G at some point, neither company has yet done so.
Verizon early last year said it would charge its customers an extra $10 per month for access to its 5G service, but later backtracked from that strategy. Late last year, though, it did begin charging an extra $10 per month for 5G on its cheapest unlimited plan, and promised to do the same on its other unlimited plans at some unspecified point in the future.
That's why it's worth watching what Comcast and Charter plan to do with 5G. Will they follow the same path as Verizon and charge extra for 5G? Or will they follow the lead of Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, which are not charging extra for 5G but are restricting the service to customers on their most expensive unlimited plans?
Whatever the cable companies do in 5G is worth watching considering that Comcast and Charter combined now have roughly 2.5 million mobile subscribers. "The two captured almost a third of the industry's total (prepaid and postpaid) phone additions," noted the Wall Street analysts at MoffettNathanson in a December report to investors.