This upgrade strategy aims to provide the entire set of converged traditional wireline and mobile services.
“Having the ability to integrate the wireless networks and the fixed line networks and building on it is key,” said Chris Winfrey, CEO of Charter Communications, during SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo. “Because we have a converged network and our competitors can only redline and are cherry-picking.”
He added that other telco competitors with wireline networks can’t serve all markets. “When we do an upgrade, we do a ubiquitous upgrade, and our competitors can’t do convergence the way we can.”
Wireless: Not just another bundle
For Charter, the story is not just about broadband alone. Mobile continues to be a bright spot for the cable MSO.
During the second quarter, Charter added 648,000 new Spectrum Mobile lines. Charter had over 6.6 million mobile lines at the end of the second quarter. It noted that 11% of its internet customers now have mobile service.
But Charter does not see its role in the wireless market as being just about being a lower-cost alternative.
“There’s a misconception, even amongst the largest mobile network operators, is that what we have is just a simple reseller agreement to compete on price,” Winfrey said. “We have a Wi-Fi mobile network, and we’ll have CBRS, so we’re the largest provider of mobile bits.”
Today, 87 percent of the bits are over Charter’s and converged wireless networks, making it faster. As Charter migrates to create its network 10G capable, it sees the emerging 5G wireless network as its backup.
“When we don’t have access to the seamless gigabit connectivity network, we fall back to 5G,” he said. “When you leave home, a consumer is not asking what provider I am on; it just has to work seamlessly and be gigabit capable.”
He added that if “this is what you define as broadband, then there’s only one provider that can do that, which is cable wireline because we have the wireline networks where we have mobile networks.”
Rural broadband, telephony opportunities
Charter has been aggressively extending broadband and wireless services to parts of the country with few service upgrades as one of the most successful bidders in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Funding (RDOF) program.
Charter has also been participating in state broadband grants in various markets.
“This is a unique moment in time for cable that we need to take advantage of,” Winfrey said. “When did the government give you money to build out your network, which does not happen often?”
Interestingly, as Charter rolls out broadband to more rural markets, Charter sees an opportunity to upsell traditional wireline voice service customers.
For example, Charter can offer these customers wireline phones for $20 monthly and bring mobile services.
“It may sound sacrilege to talk about wireline phone, but we can save these consumers money on this service,” Winfrey said. “A lot of these passings may have wireline phone and they may be paying ridiculous rates.”
Winfrey said its penetration into the rural markets exceeded its initial expectations. “We’re having a lot of success that’s better than we expected in these rural footprints,” he said. “This is not just a Charter issue; I think it’s better if the entire cable industry does it together.”