Comcast’s Watson: Too early to consider 5G a threat to fixed wireline broadband

Dave Watson, newly appointed CEO of Comcast's cable operation (Comcast)

Comcast does not consider it a threat, at least not in the immediate sense, that 5G wireless technology will disrupt the business of wireline broadband service providers, according to Dave Watson, newly appointed CEO of the company’s cable operation.

“The main thing with 5G is that it’s early,” said Watson, once president of Comcast Cellular, to investors during Thursday’s first-quarter earnings call. “I’ve been through it back in the day with wireless. It takes time to scale.”

Watson said that while there may be “early-stage applications” of 5G tech, wide-scale deployment is still too far away to justify a discussion about a threat to wireline businesses.

“We’re going to stay close to it,” he added. “We’re testing both fixed and mobile aspects to it. The main question is, with this higher frequency range, can it reliably and economically delivery [a service on par] with fixed broadband? I don’t believe at this stage at all it’s a threat, at least to the fixed broadband side."

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Comcast added 429,000 high-speed internet users in the first quarter. It now controls nearly 27% of all wireline broadband connections in the U.S.

The company is also in the midst of an aggressive upgrade to its network infrastructure—on Tuesday, Comcast announced that it has deployed DOCSIS 3.1-powered 1-gig services to its entire Utah footprint. 

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Watson told investors that the company expects to have 65% of its total footprint festooned with DOCSIS 3.1 by the end of the year. 

Watson was conducting his first quarterly earnings call as Comcast Cable CEO. Last month, Neil Smit stepped up and aside from the role, moving to vice chairman. Smit cited injuries incurred during his time as a Navy SEAL for his decision to take on a lower impact role at Comcast.