Cable industry to add 1.6M mobile customers in 2019, analysts predict

Morgan Stanley on cable MVNOs (Morgan Stanley)
The analysts at Morgan Stanley predict growth among cable MVNOs. (Morgan Stanley)

The Wall Street research analysts at Morgan Stanley said they are expecting cable players Comcast, Charter and Altice to collectively sign up 1.6 million new mobile customers to their respective MVNOs next year.

“Comcast represents the majority of the cable market (90% in 2018 and 66% in 2019) though we expect Charter and Altice to increase their share moving forward. We’d note that cable companies could get a boost if Sprint/T-Mobile agreed to new MVNO terms and them as part of any merger approval conditions,” the firm wrote in a note to investors this week.

Comcast is leading the field, having launched its Xfinity Mobile MVNO service early last year. The company in October reported Xfinity Mobile net line additions of 228,000, ending the quarter with 1 million total lines of mobile service.

As for Charter, the company just this summer entered the mobile game with its own Spectrum Mobile MVNO, and the Morgan Stanley analysts predict the company will gain 488,000 net customer additions next year. Charter in October reported the addition of 21,000 lines of service in its MVNO during its first quarter of selling the offering.

And Altice, which is preparing to launch its own MVNO next year, is predicted to gain 64,000 net customer additions next year and 136,000 in 2020.

“It makes for a very competitive environment,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in October of the potential threat from cable MVNOs, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. “We feel very comfortable in what we're doing and the response and what brings customers to T-Mobile, but there are clearly two additional players in the wireless space now in Comcast and Charter, and I'm sure others to follow.”

Those comments are noteworthy considering Legere’s attitude toward the threat from cable was decidedly more relaxed earlier this year, when he described Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile as “very irrelevant” and Charter’s mobile plans as “irrelevant squared.”

T-Mobile inked a merger agreement with Sprint in April, and based part of its argument in favor of the transaction on the fact that new players like cable companies were coming to the market, thus increasing overall market competition.

Regardless, Comcast, Charter and Altice are clearly working to steal customers away from the likes of Verizon and T-Mobile. Indeed, in Charter’s latest Spectrum Mobile ads, the company takes direct aim at those operators.