There are several companies that conduct wireless speed tests, and the big three U.S. wireless carriers in the U.S. all claim to be “winners” in one category or another. But now, Charter Communications is jumping into the fray, claiming that its Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) service has the fastest overall speeds.
This may seem rather questionable, given the fact that Charter’s Spectrum Mobile service mostly rides on Verizon’s network. So how can Spectrum Mobile be faster than Verizon Wireless?
Charter claims that Spectrum Mobile delivers faster overall speeds than any other mobile provider in its footprint because its huge installed base of Wi-Fi gives it a boost.
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Based on data collected by Global Wireless Solutions and The Nielsen Co. for the first quarter of 2021, Spectrum Mobile says its customers experienced data speeds that were 43% faster than Verizon’s, 41% faster than T-Mobile’s and 29% faster than AT&T’s.
Spectrum Mobile calculates its overall download speeds by comparing Spectrum’s average combined Wi-Fi and cellular speeds with those of its competitors within its 41-state operating footprint.
Charter claims its overall speeds have beat the other mobile providers in its footprint for seven consecutive quarters.
Charter’s CEO and CFO have talked a lot lately about how the company is converging Wi-Fi with LTE and 5G cellular. They say that while mobile communications once occurred exclusively on cellular networks, today the vast majority of mobile data usage occurs over Wi-Fi.
Charter bundles its Spectrum Mobile service with its home internet service and its in-home Wi-Fi. Charter doesn’t report how many of its total 29.2 million internet customers have its in-home Wi-Fi product. Charter also has more than 500,000 out-of-home, public Wi-Fi access points.
For Spectrum Mobile, about 80% of data traffic occurs over Charter’s Wi-Fi, which is typically faster than cellular networks.
“No longer is Wi-Fi just a supplement to mobile communications; it is the foundation of consumers’ everyday mobile experience,” states Charter.
The big picture for Charter
Both Charter and Comcast have been positioning their MVNOs as a growth vehicle for their lucrative broadband businesses.
Speaking at a MoffettNathanson event in early May, Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge said he looks at Spectrum Mobile in a strategic way to offer mobile services to Charter’s broadband customers and “to converge the product itself into a single product.” Rutledge added, “I think mobile represents the opportunity for us to save people money and give them better products than they have today. And those are good business opportunities.”
Charter CFO Christopher Winfrey recently spoke at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Communications event, and he stressed Rutledge’s point. He said the company’s mobile product is really just an extension of its existing internet product. “Broadband has been a profitable product for us,” said Winfrey. “Mobile is going to help it continue to be more profitable by having more customer relationships and by saving customers more money along the way.”
Spectrum has been adding subscribers at a good clip.
Charter added 300,000 wireless subscribers in Q1 2021, up from 290,000 in the year-ago quarter. It ended the quarter with a total of nearly 2.7 million mobile lines, compared to nearly 1.4 million at the end of Q1 2020.