Charter updates MVNO progress, explores dual SIM connectivity

Charter is betting the mobile product will help the company acquire new customers as voice and video subscribers continue to decline. (Charter Communications)

Charter executives gave more details about the company's wireless plans during the Charter's recent quarterly earnings call, saying the firm is exploring ways to utilize licensed and unlicensed spectrum as part of its MVNO offering.

“We’re currently testing the possibility to broaden the mobile capabilities of our network using a combination of Dual SIM technology with unlicensed and potentially licensed spectrum deployed in home, in business, on strand and across our 51 million passings,” Rutledge said during the earnings call, according to a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.

Charter launched its Spectrum Mobile product in July 2018. Charter uses a mix of licensed and unlicensed spectrum to offer connectivity to its mobile customers. Spectrum Mobile is distributed by Verizon through a MVNO agreement and is augmented by some 500,000 Charter Wi-Fi hotspots.

Rutledge has said in the past that the company would explore eSim and Dual SIM technologies, which could allow Charter to run its own network and an MVNO simultaneously on the same device.

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The company is now looking for ways to reduce its capex for the product by moving more mobile traffic onto unlicensed spectrum. “We are doing experiments with the capability of moving traffic in an efficient way where it’s economically viable to do so,” Rutledge said. “From a technical point of view there are multiple spectrum opportunities, some of which are free and some of which are licensed.”

Charter is currently exploring with the 3.5GHz CBRS band for Spectrum Mobile. “CBRS is what we’re experimenting in,” he said, adding that some of the CBRS spectrum would be made available to Charter at no cost. Rutledge also said the company is expanding its Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities.

The company has hinted in past earnings calls that it could potentially build out a wireless network using CBRS spectrum.

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Charter reported adding 176,000 new lines to Spectrum Mobile, bringing its mobile customer total to 310,000 lines. Mobile revenue totaled $140 million during the quarter. “Mobile is ramping nicely and the early results of this product launch remain promising,” Rutledge said.

Charter is betting the mobile product will help the company acquire new customers as voice and video subscribers continue to decline. The company expects Spectrum Mobile to become profitable on a standalone basis once it reaches scale, but Charter CTO Chris Winfrey noted that profitability is “probably not a 2019 event” for Spectrum Mobile.