Charter: We'll need to build a wireless network

From left to right: Bob Stanzione, Arris; Balan Nair, Liberty Global; Jim Blackley, Charter; Zoran Stakic, Shaw. (Ben Munson)

PHILADELPHIA -- Charter has indicated it will activate its MVNO agreement with Verizon to offer wireless service, but a top Charter executive believes the MSO will eventually have to build its own network in order to get the control it wants.

Speaking on a panel today at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, Jim Blackley, executive vice president of engineering and IT for Charter, said Charter will have to use the assets it is already putting in place to build a wireless network. Specifically, he pointed toward power and deep fiber backhaul as key components Charter already has in order to create an “unbeatable” network.

Blackley’s views on Charter’s wireless aspirations come a week after Charter CEO Tom Rutledge again confirmed his company’s plans to use the Verizon wireless network agreement it inherited when it brought Time Warner Cable.

Comcast has also said it will use the same agreement, which stems from a previous spectrum deal between Verizon and multiple cable companies, to get its own wireless service off the ground in 2017. Comcast has said it will also leverage its extensive Wi-Fi footprint for its wireless service.

In Blackley’s opinion, though, Wi-Fi in the future will evolve in order to meet customers’ expectations of getting the same kind of speed and latency inside and outside of the home. To that end, Blackley predicted that Wi-Fi service in the near future will entail small cells both on customers’ home and in the cable plant.

While Charter’s wireless plans still have no time frame, other global MSOs have already made a lot of progress in the space. On the same panel, Liberty Global CTO Balan Nair described the numerous approaches his company has taken to grow its wireless footprint, which now serves 12 million subscribers. Nair said that building a network was the most difficult for Liberty Global, while full MVNO agreements (as opposed to what Nair described as light MVNOs) worked out best for the MSO because it gave them control over the SIM, and therefore the option of changing network providers if need be.

Related articles:
Rutledge: Charter has asked Verizon to activate MVNO agreement
Comcast to launch wireless service by the middle of 2017