Charter’s Rutledge: 'T-Mobile doesn’t understand our MVNO deal'

Tom Rutledge
Charter's CEO Tom Rutledge plans to build a high-density wireless network, which he doesn’t necessarily see as a mobile network. 

Charter Communications Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge pushed aside criticism of his MSO’s MVNO deal with Verizon, saying he is “comfortable” with making the arrangement the foundation of a new Charter mobile product that will become widely available sometime in 2018.

“We don’t think the T-Mobile comments were correct,” Rutledge said during Charter’s fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday. “I don’t want to discuss the details of our plan other than to say T-Mobile doesn’t understand it.”

Rutledge was referencing recent comments from T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who said earlier this month during his company’s earnings call that, “There's no possible way [that cable companies] will get economics to do unlimited, which has now become the industry standard.”

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For his part, Rutledge did go into the challenges Charter faces in getting its wireless product off the ground. 

“To integrate a wireless business into a high-volume transactional business, we have a major challenge,” he said. “We have to enter into contracts with instrument providers, there’s billing systems to consider, and we have to figure out our store-front situation … We’re still working through those kinds of issues. To do it at a relatively small scale is relatively easy. But how do you do it at a massive scale quickly?"

Charter and Comcast both indicated last year that they had each executed 2011 MVNO deals with Verizon and planned to combine those wholesale agreements with their existing public Wi-Fi networks to launch upcoming wireless services. 

Rutledge, meanwhile, also continued to discuss on Thursday Charter’s plans to build a high-density wireless network, which he doesn’t necessarily see as a mobile network. 

“If you look at the high-capacity networks of the future and the new products being developed for those very low latency, high-capacity networks, such as VR, my sense is that many of those products will not be mobile products,” Rutledge said. “I think it’s less about mobility than high capacity and low latency.” 

Rutledge once again referenced the work of industry consortium CableLabs, which is developing a symmetrical 10 Gbps technology based on DOCSIS 3.1 called “Full Duplex.”

Products based on Full Duplex, Rutledge said, “are capable of running on our nodal architecture. We think we have a very flexible architecture that will allow us to grow capacity without a ton of investment.”