February 2, 2018
As if there wasn't already enough hype around 5G, Charter has gone ahead and started flogging 6G, a term it's using to define a converged communications infrastructure of wired and wireless technologies.
On the latest quarterly earnings call Friday morning, CEO Tom Rutledge made specific reference to Charter Communications Inc. 's work in the wireless space, addressing not only the company's upcoming mobile service, which is based on an MVNO agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), but also 5G trials and new research into what he likes to call "6G." (See also If Anyone Mentions 6G to Me at MWC….)
Important note: Rutledge's definition of 6G is different from UK researchers in Bristol who are developing Gallium Nitride (GaN)-on-Diamond microwave technology as a prelude to 6G services. (See University Gets Grant for 5G, 6G R&D.)
"Our 5G wireless tests are going well," says Rutledge, "as are our 6G tests, which is our pre-spec definition of the integration of small cell architecture using unlicensed and licensed spectrum working together interchangeably with our advanced DOCSIS roadmap to create high-capacity, low-latency product offerings. We expect that over time our existing infrastructure will put us in a unique position to economically deploy new powerful products that benefit from small cell connectivity."
Rutledge's definition of 6G is pretty specific to Charter's use case, or at least to a cable network architecture. But it does follow on from other discussions about combining small cell radios with DOCSIS networks and leveraging the 3.5GHz band (Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS) to support new wireless services. (See Charter Plans In-Home Small Cell Gateway and Cisco: Cable Nets Can Backhaul Small Cells.)
The CEO's latest commentary is also in line with the "inside out" strategy being adopted by large cable operators as the industry looks to extend its connectivity presence from inside the home to outside and on the go. (See Ericsson Is Building a DOCSIS Small Cell.)
Figure 1: Charter's wireless strategy stems from its strength in the home.
In the near term, Rutledge says the company is still on track to launch its first mobile service in the middle of this year. Tempering expectations for a major new competitive presence in the mobile space, however, the CEO also emphasized that the goal of the MVNO service will be to "create and retain more cable customers."
There is no word yet on how Charter will price its new mobile service. But, in a possible hint of his company's pricing strategy, Rutledge complimented Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) on its pricing model and highlighted his company's plans to focus on service bundling and delivering a good value on high-quality products.
Overall, Charter's fourth-quarter revenues grew 3.2% year over year to $10.6 billion. Rises in residential and Internet video revenue contributed to that gain (with the company even adding 2,000 video subs from the previous quarter), as did increasing commercial services revenue. Net income rose to $9.6 billion in the quarter, and full-year adjusted EBITDA totaled $15.3 billion, an increase of 5.8% year over year on a pro forma basis. (See Charter Posts Q4 Results.)
More coverage on Charter's latest quarterly earnings to come.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading
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