Cable company Altice USA is providing its employees with a first look at its forthcoming mobile service, priced at $25 per line. The unlimited talk, text and data offering -- which is currently just available to Altice employees but is scheduled to launch commercially later this summer -- only supports iPhones, offers unlimited hotspot data, appears to only be available in the operator's cable footprint and offloads users to the operator's roughly 2 million public WiFi hotspots.
Altice confirmed to Light Reading that it is offering its Altice Mobile-branded wireless service to its employees, noting that its pending commercial service may not line up exactly with its employee offering.
"We recently began offering Altice Mobile to our employees as part of an exclusive employee-only offer," the company said in a statement to Light Reading. "We remain on track to launch Altice Mobile to consumers this summer, with details on consumer plans and pricing to be made available at that time."
Altice inked an MVNO agreement with Sprint in 2017 to launch mobile services using Sprint's network. Altice is the nation’s fourth largest cable company with roughly 5 million customers across about a dozen states.
Altice's pricing dovetails with a recent report from the Wall Street Journal that Altice was testing a mobile service costing between $20 and $30 per month. However, it appears that Altice has settled on a price for employees of $25 per line, up to five lines. That price would undercut Altice's cable rivals: Comcast's and Charter's unlimited mobile offerings start at $45 per line. Altice's pricing is also below what Sprint charges for unlimited service.
Altice's $25 price point does not include activation fees, roaming charges, taxes or government fees and is only available to customers who opt for automatic payments.
Further, Altice Mobile will initially only support iPhones inside the operator's cable footprint; Android support will likely be added at a later date. Altice will both sell new iPhones and support customers' existing, compatible iPhones via a BYOD (bring your own device) program.
That Altice plans to offload its cellular traffic onto its public WiFi hotspots doesn't come as much of a surprise. Both Comcast and Charter also push customers from cellular connections to WiFi networks; Comcast's and Charter's mobile services work on Verizon's network. The offload strategy is designed to reduce the amount of money that cable operators owe their host cellular network provider. According to recent data from Tutela, Comcast and Charter have been successful at offloading customers onto WiFi -- for example, Comcast's Xfinity Mobile Android customers are on WiFi almost 70% of the time, compared with around 60% for Verizon.
However, Altice has said that its Sprint-powered MVNO won't be like other "light" MVNOs because Altice Mobile is a "full infrastructure-based MVNO." Indeed, Altice has already deployed about 19,000 AirStrand small cells onto its cable network in support of Sprint's cellular network in New York -- a unique wireless-cable partnership that some analysts believe will become more prevalent in the 5G era.
Moreover, Altice executives have promised that the operator won't record massive losses on its mobile effort, as Comcast and Charter have. "We don't anticipate, even in our first year of operation, to lose money on this," Altice’s Dexter Goei said last year. "There may be working capital timing differences relative to handsets and how we treat those, but in terms of losing money, we are not going to lose money."