Comcast, Charter Unveil Wireless Partnership That Could Pursue Deals

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Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts

The cable operators have focused on broadening their service offerings as video and broadband usage on mobile devices have continued to rise.

Cable, media and technology giants Comcast and Charter Communications on Monday unveiled an agreement to explore potential operational cooperation in their emerging wireless businesses "to accelerate and enhance each company’s ability to participate in the national wireless marketplace."

The companies each recently separately activated a mobile virtual network operator reseller agreement with Verizon Wireless and have now agreed to explore cooperating "in a number of potential operational areas in the wireless space."

Those include creating common operating platforms; technical standards development and harmonization; device logistics. "The efficiencies created are expected to provide more choice, innovative products and competitive prices for customers in each of their respective footprints," they said.

The partnership comes as cable operators have looked to broaden their service offerings as video and broadband usage on mobile devices have continued to rise.

For a year, the companies have also agreed to work exclusively together on possible commercial arrangements and "material transactions" with national mobile network operators. Analysts said this could be a sign that the companies could jointly explore a bid for a wireless firm, such as Sprint or T-Mobile, buy wireless spectrum together or strike another reseller agreement. Industry watchers also said they could work together on Wifi hot spots and the like.

Charter and Comcast representatives said the companies wouldn't comment on any deal speculation.

Comcast recently unveiled plans for a $45-$65 per-month wireless service that will become available soon, with Charter also readying a service launch. 

"We’re looking forward to launching Xfinity Mobile to our customers in the coming weeks and are excited about this opportunity to work with Charter to explore ways we can make our respective wireless initiatives more efficient and cost effective," said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. "Both of our companies have regional wireless businesses using the same 4G LTE network, and by working together our goal is to create even better experiences for our customers."

Tom Rutledge, chairman and CEO of Charter, said: "At Charter, we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us in the wireless space. Within our footprint, our network is perfectly suited to provide the data-rich wireless services that customers are increasingly demanding."

He added: "By working with the team at Comcast, we can not only speed Charter’s entry into the marketplace, it will also enable us to provide more competition and drive costs down for consumers at a similar national scale as current wireless operators. We look forward to working with Comcast through this innovative arrangement and bringing our focus on superior products and services, craftsmanship and quality customer care to the wireless space.”

Macquarie Capital analyst Amy Yong said about the deal: "I think this reflects the industry's willingness to embrace 'coopetition' and could actually move things along on the innovation front. This also resolves some of the issues around lacking a nationwide footprint."

 

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