Charter is getting into the mobile phone business in 2018, with service plans expected to launch in the second half of this year. Although we don’t have any real details on what kind of service Charter is planning to offer, the project has made another strong step towards reality with the hiring of a former Sprint executive to run the show.
Danny Bowman is Charter’s new Chief Mobile Officer, a newly-created role that underscores how seriously Charter is taking the launch of its new mobile network. Bowman most recently worked for LeEco, a Chinese-backed firm that made a brief but glorious play in the unlocked phone market. Before that, he worked for Samsung, Sprint, and Nextel.
“As the Chief Mobile Officer for the company, Danny and his team will run the mobile business and forge strong partnerships with key suppliers and leverage Charter’s superior network assets to deliver a transformative integrated mobile, wireless connectivity and entertainment experience,” Charter Executive Vice President Rich DiGeronimo said.
Charter’s wireless launch comes on the heels of a modestly successful wireless offering from Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile. Comcast uses Verizon’s network and its own subscribers’ wireless hotspots to offer coverage, a tactic that Charter will reportedly be copying. Rather than building its own network, Charter will piggyback off Verizon, which will allow it to deploy nationwide coverage for a fraction of the price of building its own network.
With any luck, Charter’s MVNO operation will copy something else from Comcast: pricing. Xfinity Mobile offers a mix of cheap unlimited or pay-as-you-go plans that offer significant savings over Verizon’s own plans. It’s a good deal: $45 per month for unlimited data, which includes unlimited talk, text, and a soft cap of 20GB of data. It’s much better than Verizon’s pricing for unlimited, which goes from $75 to $85 for one line, depending on what features you want. There’s also a pay-what-you-want $12-per-GB option.
FCC filings also indicate that Charter may have bigger ambitions than just MVNO operations. “The wireless component of Charter’s network is transitioning from a nomadic Wi-Fi network to one that that supports full mobility by incorporating Wi-Fi with multiple 4G and 5G access technologies to deliver a seamless connectivity experience,” Charter said in the filing. “In navigating this transition, Charter is emphasizing an ‘Inside-Out’ strategy, focusing first on wireless solutions inside the home and office, and then eventually expanding outdoors.”