Comcast and Charter to jointly develop common mobile operating platform

Comcast Xfinity Mobile (Comcast)

After announcing a wide-ranging mobile business partnership almost a year ago, Comcast and Charter said today that they’ve agreed to jointly develop and use a common operating platform for their respective MVNO-based mobile services. 

The announcement called it a “50/50 operating platform partnership” focused on the development and design of backend systems that support Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile service.

The cable companies said they’d work together to develop a scalable software platform and related backend systems, which will power each company’s mobile-related customer sales and support platforms, device logistics and warehousing, and billing. The operating platform developed through the partnership will serve as the systems interface for current and future mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners.

The two cable companies will continue to maintain their own relationships with device manufacturers. And customer-effecting activities including customer service, marketing, sales, pricing and packaging will be handled distinctly. 

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According to the announcement, the partnership will leverage elements of the operating platform that Comcast is currently using for its Xfinity Mobile service, which was launched in early 2017. Charter has modified that platform for its upcoming mobile product, which will launch later this year. 

Charter will initially fund the joint venture, with Comcast having already made significant investments in the mobile-related platform. 

“We have built a best-in-class mobile platform for Xfinity Mobile that is resonating with customers,” said Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer for Comcast, in a statement. “By collaborating with Charter, we will help drive operational and cost efficiencies for both companies.”

Added Danny Bowman, chief mobile officer for Charter: “Our new partnership will enable us to drive faster and more cost-effective mobile product and service enhancements and provide innovative and affordable mobile service to our customers. We are excited about the launch of Spectrum Mobile in the coming months.”

Both Comcast and Charter are building their mobile products by combining MVNO deals with No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier Verizon and their own public Wi-Fi networks. 

In May of 2017, the two regionally distinct MSOs announced a broad partnership in which they’d share technology and information on best practices in terms of marketing, pricing, back-office infrastructure, etc. They also agreed to combine leverage in negotiations with wireless vendors, such as handset manufacturers.

And for one year, they agreed that neither side can make a major wireless acquisition without the other’s consent. (There was no word in today’s announcement as to whether that clause is getting extended.)

During its fourth-quarter earnings call in January, Comcast revealed that it had deployed 380,000 lines for its Xfinity Mobile service. CFO Mike Cavanagh conceded, however, that it will be “several years” before Comcast breaks out financials for its nascent wireless service.