Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge argued it has plenty of room to gain share and boost profits with wireless services, as cable MVNOs collectively raked in well over half a million new subscribers in Q1.
During an earnings call, he stated “mobile and wireline broadband are converging into a single connectivity service package which is delivered over a combination of mobile and fixed networks.” He added Charter’s share of overall consumer connectivity spending remains low.
“An average household served by the big three mobile broadband competitors with two-plus lines of mobile broadband and wireline broadband spends approximately $200 per month on its telecom services. Today, Charter only generates $33 per passing and $65 per customer of that $200 of combined monthly spend,” he explained.
Rutledge said the company’s goal is to use the convergence trend to convince consumers to choose Charter as their “full-service connectivity provider,” ultimately aiming to do “the same with mobile in our service area as we did with wireline voice, where we made Charter the predominant wireline phone carrier by reducing consumer telephone bills.”
He argued this strategy would allow Charter to grow for a long time due to its low penetration rates today.
The CEO continued “we already are moving toward convergence in many ways,” adding it is well-positioned to reap the benefits of owners’ economics in wireless through both the use of its recently acquired 3.5 GHz (CBRS) spectrum assets as well as its network of Wi-Fi hotspots for traffic offload.
Cable’s Q1 metrics
Charter added 300,000 wireless subscribers in Q1, 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.
Wireless revenue jumped a whopping 91% year on year from $258 million to $492 million. However, costs still outweighed this, coming in at $572 million, leaving the wireless business with a loss of $80 million.
During the call, CFO Christopher Winfrey said the company prioritized subscriber growth over profitability for its wireless business in the short term. He added absent new subscriber acquisition costs, the unit had “already cleared profitability” at the 2 million lines mark.
His comments came after Comcast executives noted earlier in the week its Xfinifty Mobile MVNO turned a profit for the first time since its launch in 2017.
The service added a record 278,000 wireless subscribers in Q1, up year on year from 216,000. Xfinity Mobile ended the quarter with 3.1 million lines, compared to 2.3 million in the year-ago period. Wireless revenue increased 49.7% year on year to $513 million, with adjusted EBITDA (the company’s measure of profit) of $6 million up from a loss of $59 million the year prior.
Meanwhile, Altice USA’s nascent wireless service added 5,000 subscribers in Q1, down from 41,000 net additions in Q1 2020, raising its total to 174,000. Wireless revenue of $19.2 million was up year on year from $18.4 million. The unit’s net loss improved from $15.6 million in Q1 2020 to $11 million in the recent quarter.
Altice Mobile previously ran on Sprint’s network prior to the operator’s merger with T-Mobile on April 1, 2020. On an earnings call, Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei said “substantially all” of its MVNO subscribers had migrated to T-Mobile’s network, adding “improved network quality” from the switch contributed to a 20% reduction in churn in Q1 2021 compared to Q4 2020.