US cable operator Charter Communications put a price tag on its recent mobile launch, revealing on an earnings call it shelled out $116 million during Q2 to get its new wireless business running.
Of that figure, Charter said $53 million went to capital expenses, mostly software and stores, while operating expenses accounted for another $33 million. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk added in a research note the remaining $30 million presumably went to building its device inventory, which would imply Charter has around 50,000 phones in stock.
The number compares to Comcast’s Q2 loss of $185 million on its own mobile venture, which launched in May 2017.
Charter’s Spectrum Mobile product made its debut at the end of June, offering an unlimited tariff for $45 per month and by-the-gig service for $14 per gigabit.
During the call, CEO Tom Rutledge said the mobile launch has “gone very well” and Charter is now focused on scaling the operation. He noted over the next few months, the company plans to offer a wider array of handsets and open a bring-your-own-device option for consumers. It will also expand its mobile sales channel and offer its wireless product in a larger number of retail locations, he said.
No need for acquisitions
In 2017, rumors swirled that Charter and Comcast considered taking a stake in mobile operator Sprint.
But despite spending a total of $70 million on mobile capex in the first half of 2018 and engaging in “significant” MVNO discussions with Sprint, Rutledge said Charter “didn’t make any attempt to buy wireless assets” in the run up to its rollout.
He explained: “On the question of wireless convergence and assets, I think our ability to create mobile customers and our ability to create wireless products on our network is sufficient right now. We have advantages in our network infrastructure that will allow us to build an inside-out strategy in wireless that we think doesn’t require any kind of immediate mobile relationship other than an MVNO.”
Rutledge didn’t rule out future deals, noting Charter might consider a wireless acquisition down the line if those mobile assets are priced right, but said there’s “nothing in our near-term horizon that dictates that we go that path.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Charter isn’t looking to enhance its mobile network.
Craig Cowden, Charter’s SVP of wireless technology, revealed in a recent Senate hearing the company is testing 4G and 5G small cell technology ahead of planned deployments to boost coverage.