Did Altice Change Its Tune on Buying Spectrum?
Cable company Altice USA hasn't participated in recent FCC spectrum auctions, and the company's CEO said just a few months ago that bidding on licensed 3.5GHz spectrum "is clearly not in the cards today."
However, in a filing to the FCC this week, the company appears to have had a change of heart.
"Altice USA has an interest in bidding for C-Band spectrum, given the company’s facilities-based approach to wireless," the company wrote to the FCC. "To ensure its long-term position as a durable, sustainable wireless competitor, the company is interested in acquiring its own spectrum licenses -- including in the C-Band -- given its attractive technical characteristics."
Altice's filing is part of the FCC's ongoing investigation into whether and how to release C-Band spectrum for 5G and other uses. C-Band spectrum sits between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz and is currently used by satellite companies and others to deliver TV, radio and other services to users across the US. The FCC is considering a range of proposals aimed at re-allocating some or all of the C-Band spectrum for commercial wireless operations, including 5G.
"Altice USA supports reallocation of the C-Band for wireless use," the company wrote, specifically voicing support for the C-Band proposal recently released by ACA Connects, the Competitive Carriers Association and fellow MSO Charter Communications.
Altice, for its part, is preparing to launch mobile services, likely under the "Altice Mobile" brand, in partnership with Sprint. As reported earlier by Light Reading, Altice USA is providing its employees with a first look at the service, priced at $25 per line.
Altice has described its forthcoming mobile service as an infrastructure-based Mobile Virtual Network Operator (iMVNO) because the cableco operates its own core infrastructure for the offering, rather than relying on Sprint's infrastructure. Altice has also constructed around 20,000 small cells for Sprint using its cable network for backhaul. And, like other cable MVNOs, Altice plans to offload Altice Mobile traffic onto its public WiFi hotspots. Those moves position Altice as a different kind of MVNO because it operates some elements of a wireless network, rather than just slapping its brand on top of Sprint's wireless network, as most MVNOs do.
If Altice purchases wireless spectrum, that would put the company further along the path of operating its own wireless network. Indeed, the company has already conducted wireless networking tests using 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum.
However, Altice has not purchased spectrum during any of the FCC's recent spectrum auctions, including the 600MHz, 24GHz and 28GHz auctions.
Whether the company changes its strategy and actually starts purchasing spectrum remains to be seen.