Count Charter in on the new cable wireless movement.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Wednesday, Charter Communications Inc. CEO Tom Rutledge disclosed that the company is in the process of "effectuating" an MVNO agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) that it inherited from its acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Asked whether that means the agreement has now been activated, a term that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) used when it made a similar move last year, Rutledge clarified that Charter has "asked to activate it," suggesting that further logistics need to be settled, but that the deal will move forward.
It was only last month that Rutledge refused to comment one way or the other about Charter's plans for the MVNO agreement with Verizon. On the company's Q2 earnings call, Rutledge said only that the company had "not fully exercised that right yet." (See Post Acquisitions, Charter Posts Solid Q2.)
Now that Charter has committed to moving forward with the deal, it's still likely to take some time before the company has a wireless offering for the market. Comcast took 11 months between the time it activated its MVNO agreement and the moment yesterday when it announced that it will launch a new wireless service in 2017. (See Comcast Will Go Wireless in 2017.)
However, like Comcast, Charter can combine Verizon's cellular network coverage with its own WiFi footprint. Rutledge has committed to investing "significantly in out-of-home WiFi," even beyond the 100,000 new WiFi hotspots it just gained through its acquisition of TWC and Bright House Networks. (See Meet the New Charter.)
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In speaking at today's event, Rutledge was still careful to distinguish between Charter's ability to deliver a wireless offering and a successful mobile service.
"To get from where we are to true mobility," he said, "is going to require the use of our WiFi. It requires the relationships we have, potentially with MVNOs, and it's going to require us to actually build out a network at some point in the future."
But he added, "When you think about the new architecture five years down the road for mobility, you'll have a traditional cellular umbrella but you'll also have these really small cells. And I think we'll have one of those in every house and every business we serve."
Specifically, Rutledge talked about the upside of delivering a new mobile offering. He sees it as the best way to further Charter's market penetration where the company already has a fixed-line network in place.
"When you think about the new Charter, we have almost 50 million homes passed... and 25 million subscriber relationships," said Rutledge. "Twenty-five million non-subscribers in front of a fully built, two-way interactive, high-capacity network -- that 25 million non-subscriber universe is our upside. And to the extent that mobility can help us drive that, the economics of filling in your penetration from an ROI perspective are fantastic."
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading