Charter clarifies wireless plans, promises to launch licensed LTE small cells

In an FCC filing, Charter detailed its wireless ambitions. (Charter)

DENVER—Charter’s wireless ambitions continue to come into focus, with the company promising an “inside-out” strategy that will start with a Wi-Fi-first MVNO through Verizon in 2018 and then will expand into “our own mobile core infrastructure by deploying licensed LTE small cells,” the company said.

“Charter is actively testing licensed small cell technologies which will put us on the path to providing next-generation super-fast, high capacity broadband to our customers,” the company wrote in a post on its site. “We will combine these 4G LTE and 5G technologies with our existing advanced high-speed network to profoundly enhance connectivity for millions of our subscribers.”

Charter offered a more detailed view into its plans via a filing it recently made with the FCC, detailing a meeting between Charter executives, including the company’s wireless chief Craig Cowden, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, alongside other FCC officials.

“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 wrote in its 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.”

Specifically, Charter’s executives petitioned the FCC to release 3.5 GHz spectrum, often referred to as the CBRS band, for both licensed and unlicensed use. The agency is scheduled to discuss rules for that band during the FCC’s open meeting next week. Charter is urging the agency to move quickly to release the spectrum, but also to put rules around the spectrum that would keep licenses geographically no bigger than a county.

“Large license sizes would limit access of the band to the country’s largest wireless carriers and would likely result in deployment only to the most densely populated areas,” Charter argued in its filing. “Smaller license sizes will enable new entrants, like Charter, to tailor their investment and deployment plans by leveraging existing infrastructure. In particular, Charter’s existing hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network provides the backhaul, power and location to rapidly deploy small cells for the provision of wireless broadband service. By contrast, increasing the geographic licensing size of PALs to PEAs (which are too large to match up with Charter’s network) would preclude new entrants such as Charter from investing in the 3.5 GHz Band due to their large geographic size.”

“We are going to be leaders in wireless,” Craig Cowden, SVP of wireless technology at Charter, proclaimed here during a presentation on wireless technologies at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

Charter’s wireless efforts will also stretch into the core network arena. Last month at the MWC Americas trade show, Cowden said that Charter will initially use Verizon’s Evolved Packet Core, IMS infrastructure, SIM cards and roaming relationships. However, he said the company is currently evaluating EPC vendors and testing its own virtual EPC in order to build its own core network for its wireless services at some point in the future.