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Charter CEO Hints at Smart Home Management Service

Jeff Baumgartner
3/11/2019
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Looking to take on a much bigger role in managing and securing the various devices that its broadband customers connect to their home networks, Charter Communications is developing a smart home platform that will debut in one market this fall and possibly reach into many others in the years to come.

That smart home management product is expected to be launched in Austin, Texas, sometime this fall, Tom Rutledge, Charter's chairman and CEO, said Monday at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla.

"My sense is that, over the next few years, it'll roll everywhere," he said.

Charter hasn't revealed much detail about the product and how it might be priced, but Light Reading reported in January that the company was in talks with several companies in the smart home product arena, including Amazon-owned Ring, Arlo and Nest, about a new smart home/security offering that would emphasize a self-install operations model. As reported last month, Charter has also been giving a close look at Prpl, an open-source software stack, as it eyes ways to support and deliver value-added smart home and IoT-related services on top of broadband. (See Charter in Talks With Ring, Others, About New Smart Home Product and Charter Might Paint Its Home Gateways & Devices 'Prpl' .)

Rutledge noted that the offering Charter is developing will focus on a "control plane" that helps customers manage the devices they connect to home network, particularly from a privacy and security standpoint. Against that backdrop, the product in the works at Charter seems to share some similarities with the approach Comcast has taken with its "xFi" platform. (See Comcast Unlocks xFi-Powered Smart Home and Comcast Launches xFi Pods for Mesh WiFi.)

"It's not really a question of, are we going to do it, but's it's really a question of getting it right and getting all of the control apparatus right and all the security right," Rutledge said. "Privacy is a real issue, and I think our customers are going to want to have a privacy relationship with us that they can count on."

Turning to wireless and mobile, Rutledge continued to talk up Charter's interest in tapping into emerging spectrum options, including opportunities with the 3.5GHz CBRS band and the C-Band, that could enable Charter to continue to offload MVNO traffic much like it is doing today for its Spectrum Mobile product using WiFi. Rutledge estimated that 80% of the data coming way of Spectrum Mobile, offered via an MVNO deal with Verizon Wireless, goes through Charter's WiFi network. (See CBRS Inches Forward With Tests (AT&T, Charter) & Devices (Samsung), Charter CEO: 'Spectrum Mobile Is Ramping Up' and Cable, Mobile Prepping for CBRS – Analyst.)

"Those pieces of spectrum on radios on our network allow for tremendous connectivity," Rutledge said, noting that Charter would look to concentrate deployments in highly traffic areas.

"To the extent that buying is cheaper than leasing, we can do that," he said.

Citing Charter's deployment of WiFi, "we could do a similar kind of deployment with a high-powered CBRS piece of spectrum [and] in a couple of years, completely cover the United States with a high-capacity 5G-like product, and [deploy it] very inexpensively on a relative basis," Rutledge said.

He also reiterated Charter's stance that any reallocation of the C-Band should occur through an auction process. (See Satellite's Grip on C-Band Spectrum for 5G Could Be Slipping.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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