Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) CEO Tom Rutledge said his company can now potentially offer a nationwide wireless service because its Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) acquisition gives it access to the same Verizon (NYSE: VZ) MVNO agreement as Comcast.
Speaking today during the MoffettNathanson conference, Rutledge didn't confirm Charter's specific plans around wireless but did say his company is already in a good position for offering wireless service.
"In my view, we're already a wireless company," said Rutledge, adding that a good amount of data is already transmitted wirelessly by customers to Charter's network. "So there's something wrong with the picture that we're not billing them for it."
The Verizon agreement in question refers to a 2011 deal in which Verizon purchased AWS-1 spectrum from Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox and TWC (a group dubbed SpectrumCo) and in return gave those companies access to its wireless network for use in a potential MVNO offering.
Comcast is reportedly already testing solutions it can put to use in accessing the agreement with Verizon, and the cable provider could be eying a commercial launch for later this year. So it would make sense for Charter, which following its new acquisitions is now the second biggest U.S. cable provider behind Comcast, to look into following suit.
Although Rutledge was mum on specifics surrounding a Charter wireless service, he did share some ideas about what he thought a future wireless network could look like. He envisioned a small cell service using less expensive licensed spectrum, saying that every home and business essentially already has a small cell Wi-Fi network service.
"The bulk of the throughput will be in homes and businesses on the small cell universes and the cellular umbrella will be for mobility," said Rutledge.
Charter, like Comcast, is also watching developments around 5G. Both Charter and Comcast have large wireline networks, ideal for backhaul, which Rutledge agreed could be leased to wireless providers or used for its own wireless service.
Interestingly, Cox spokesman Todd Smith confirmed that the cable company also did have the option to implement an MVNO agreement with Verizon as part of its participation in SpectrumCo, but decided not to act on that option. He said the option has now expired.
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