Charter Confirms it Will Get into Mobile Business
In case you had any remaining, doubts, both Comcast and Charter Communications--firms that control 75 percent of all U.S. internet access subscriptions faster than 25 Mbps and 82.5 percent of all U.S. cable customers--are going to be in the U.S. mobile services business.
“Charter intends to leverage and expand its existing Wi-Fi service, work with MVNO partners, and, at the appropriate time, invest in its own licensed spectrum based wireless network,” the company says in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
You can draw your own conclusions about what that ultimately will mean for the structure of the U.S. market.
But it is at least plausible that Sprint and T-Mobile US cease to exist as independent entities, and that all four of the largest U.S. mobile providers are parts of “fixed plus mobile” firms that sell the full range of video, voice and data services to consumers and businesses.
That could develop if--and some would say “when”--Comcast and then Charter move to acquire one of the two “mobile only” providers at the top of the U.S. mobile market. As has been the case in other parts of the communications market, the leading cable companies will challenge the legacy telcos--AT&T and Verizon--for market share.
Should that happen, there will no longer be any question about whether “mobile only” works as a fundamental strategy for the tier-one providers. At the point where all four tier-one providers operate both mobile and fixed networks, the “mobile-only” strategy will be reserved for smaller specialists.
As has become the case for telcos that have non-overlapping fixed network footprints, Comcast and Charter also will, for the first time, compete against each other in the mobile realm.
Mobile will foundational for cable operators looking for revenue growth. For starters, it is a big business where they can take market share, as they have done in voice, internet access and business services.
With respect to enterprise services, one only has to note the shift of enterprise traffic from fixed to wireless networks (mobile, Wi-Fi and probably fixed wireless), to understand the attraction of owning mobile assets.
Traditional “fixed network” traffic might represent as little as three percent of volume by 2025, Bell Labs believes. For nearly any major service provider serving enterprises, inability to sell mobile services at retail misses much of the market opportunity.