Charter Busts Out Home Wi-Fi Plan

When it comes to supplying broadband customers with in-home Wi-Fi gear, Charter Communications appears to be zigging while some of its industry peers are zagging.

Rather than deploying integrated gateways that combine a Wi-Fi router with a DOCSIS modem, Charter will instead offer an MSO-customized, high-performance Wi-Fi router from Netgear that it will lease to certain broadband customers for $3 per month, plus a one-time $39.99 activation fee.

The offer also comes with 24x7 technical support and a promise to replace defective routers. Early on, Charter is not offering the new Wi-Fi product to the 300,000 customers served by the former Optimum West systems in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that Charter recently purchased from Cablevision Systems. Charter expects to extend the offer to customers in those systems in 2014, a spokeswoman said.

Charter’s initial in-home Wi-Fi initiative centers on an MSO-customized version of the Netgear WNDR3800, which features dual-band 5.0GHz and 2.4GHz radios. The list price for that particular Netgear model at is $220.00, though the online retailer is currently offering it to Amazon Prime customers for $104.99.

Charter said company an independent test conducted at a third-party test facility found that the router consistently provided speeds up to 30 Mbps even when the user was 120 feet away – enough to provide sufficient whole-home coverage.

“The Charter WiFi router is the heart of a home’s network, responsible for powering our fast Internet speeds over Wi-Fi,” said Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s senior vice president of product and strategy, in a statement. “Faster speeds required a better router.  We selected this router after extensive testing against a variety of high-performance Wi-Fi equipment.  We’re confident this solution provides an optimal Wi-Fi experience to our customers.  Of course, as Wi-Fi technology rapidly evolves, our goal will remain to deliver the best in-home Wi-Fi experience available.”

Charter ended the first quarter of 2013 with 3.88 million high-speed Internet subs. The MSO presently offers two residential broadband tiers:   Plus (30 Mbps downstream) and Ultra (100 Mbps downstream).

Charter’s decision to offer stand-alone Wi-Fi routers is different than strategies that are underway at MSOs such as Comcast, which recently launched a new voice-capable wireless gateway made by Cisco that bakes in a dual-band 802.11n router and a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that bonds up to 16 downstream channels. Comcast is initially offering that new gateway (for $7 per month)  to triple-play customers who also subscribe to X1, the MSO’s next-gen video service.