Comcast, Charter Wireless Offering Sweetens Services Bundles, But Won't Create A New Market
Comcast and Charter Communications, the two largest cable providers in the U.S., announced they are teaming up to take on the wireless market, but that doesn't create a significant new revenue opportunity for partners just yet.
The two cable giants revealed plans on Sunday night to work together to negotiate better wireless contracts, and better compete against the likes of the wireless heavyweights, AT&T and Verizon.
Solution providers say that even combined, Comcast and Charter are unlikely to make much headway in the wireless market if they only resell another provider's wireless services.
Separately, both Comcast and Charter have mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreements with Verizon that lets them sell wireless services using Verizon's network.
"It's really a 'me too,' play," said Michael Bremmer, CEO of Moreno Valley, Calif.-based TelecomQuotes.com, a telecom consultancy. "I don't see how Comcast and Charter are going to innovate and add value to the wireless market as an MVNO."
In a joint press release, the two companies said they would work together in several potential operational areas in the wireless space, including creating common operating platforms, technical standards development and harmonization, as well as exploring emerging wireless technology platforms.
Comcast and Charter also said that the two would work together on any "potential commercial arrangements" for the next year. This could mean buying a wireless provider or working with any other providers besides Verizon would be a joint decision.
Comcast, in April, stressed that it would be mining its existing subscriber base for wireless customers and will include wireless as part of their bundled TV, internet and phone services for customers during its Q1 2017 earnings call. The two companies said that the partnership would provide more choice and competitive pricing for customers across their respective footprints.
What's likely to happen next is competition around bundled services instead of an all-out price war in wireless services. Because of the size of the two companies, and the fact that neither company needs a wireless practice to stay afloat, Bremmer thinks it's unlikely that a Comcast- and Charter-led wireless service would reach the same level of competitive pricing that T-Mobile and Sprint have tried.
"It's one less bill, which is going to be their pitch, but I don't know what other value they are going to add to wireless," he said.
Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channels for Comcast Business, told CRN in April that Comcast's wireless service will be a consumer-first offering, and that the Philadelphia-based provider had no immediate plans to roll the service out to business customers.
Five Nines Networks, a Seattle-based solution provider that partners with both Comcast and Charter believes that if the two companies released a compelling wireless offering – one that used the wireless infrastructure of other providers for business customers – it could be interesting for partners to sell, but only if the two companies move away from the usage-based billing model.
"I would love to use wireless 5G infrastructure in place of a territorial fiber solution, but if they are going to charge for usage, then it becomes too pricey," said Scott Hughes, owner of Five Nines Networks.