Charter says mobile service is in field trials with 5,000 employees

Charter Communications said its anticipated new mobile service is currently in a field trial involving 5,000 of its employees.

Speaking to investors during Charter’s first-quarter earnings call Friday, Charter Chairman and CEO Tom  Rutledge said the employees are going through an “end-to-end sales activation of service process in May.”

“And we are building our sales chancels and service capabilities, including modifying several hundred of our 700 retail stores and setting up the call center environment,” Rutledge added. “Ultimately, the goal is to use our mobile service to attract and retain cable bundle multiproduct customers.”

Charter has targeted a mid-2018 launch date for the service, which is based on an MVNO deal with Verizon.

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Last week, Charter announced a new extension of its partnership with Comcast, which has a similar MVNO agreement with Verizon and launched its mobile service last year. 

“The partnership we signed with Comcast last week will accelerate our ability to scale our MVNV service offerings by stepping into a proven MVNO back office platform,” Rutledge said. “And [it will] improve the economics of our emerging mobile business.”

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“Comcast has been extremely helpful to Charter as we go through establishing back office systems and that JV should continue to help us do that,” added CFO Christopher Winfrey. “So is there an opportunity that the go-forward platform costs for companies are reduced by sharing in those expenses and that’s the whole idea of getting into the JV."

Rutledge also said that Charter’s infrastructure matches up well with the needs of a wireless service. 

“In addition to the continued advancements in Wi-Fi throughput and latency, we’re testing in various bands including 28 gigahertz and 3.5 gigahertz, which are going well and support our thesis with small cell using unlicensed and licensed spectrum including midband spectrum like 3.5 gigahertz,” Rutledge explained.