The mobile and wireline industries are set to collide as some cable companies appear to be gearing up to launch wireless services. But there's little reason to expect the mobile landscape to be radically overhauled anytime soon.
Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), the world's largest cable TV company by revenue, executed on its MVNO deal with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) last fall and is rumored to launch a service leveraging its Wi-Fi footprint sometime this year. Comcast has been seeking tech executives with wireless experience for key positions in recent months, according to The Donohue Report, and Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh said in April that the company has what it takes to make 5G work.
"We're still in early days," Cavanagh said on a quarterly earnings call with analysts. "Antennas are going to need to go up, and we need space and power and backhaul. The spectrum doesn't pass through trees and buildings."
And Comcast isn't the only cable company itching to get into the wireless game. Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) CEO Tom Rutledge said last month his company could offer a nationwide wireless service because its Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) acquisition gives it access to the same Verizon MVNO agreement as Comcast. Charter is now the second-largest cable operator in the U.S. behind Comcast.
Wi-Fi as a mobile technology: 'A lot of work still to be done'
Wi-Fi would be the key for any cable company looking to unlock the wireless market. A wireline broadband provider could use existing residential and commercial Wi-Fi access points and public hotspot networks, routing traffic over those connections whenever possible and falling back to cellular only when necessary. Or traffic could be routed over cellular networks unless rock-solid Wi-Fi connectivity is available. Either model could allow an MVNO to offer somewhat discounted service.
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