Charter Eyes 10-Gbps Broadband

Charter Communications chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said the cable operator is moving toward a future where broadband speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second are possible, but stopped short of pinpointing exactly when that future will be.

At the UBS Media and Communications conference in New York, Rutledge pointed to the cable operator’s current MVNO agreement with Verizon, which he said could take hold in late 2017 or 2018. But building on that deal – which would allow Charter to resell a Verizon wireless service under its own brand – would be an even faster wireline service that Rutledge said could open up a “whole new industry.”

Rutledge said there are already about 200 million wireless devices connected to Charter’s wireline network and about 80% of the bits on a mobile company’s network travel through that same network.

“We are a wireless company,” Rutledge said.

Charter has already exercised its Verizon MNVO rights, part of the SpectrumCo sale of wireless licenses to Verizon in 2011. Comcast also has said it exercised those rights.

Charter currently offers data speeds of up to 100 Megabits per second in most of its markets and its minimum speed is 60 Mbps. Other operators have offered 10 Gbps download speeds in select areas, and symmetrical 10 Gbps is part of the “Full Duplex” enhancement to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard. The spec for the Full Duplex extension is expected to be completed sometime in 2017. However, commercial deployment probably won't begin until 2018 or 2019.

At the UBS conference, Rutledge said MVNOs have their limitations, but with future technologies on the horizon like 5G wireless – he said Charter has applied for experimental licenses for testing that technology – the possibilities surrounding hybrid wireline and wireless networks are endless.

“I think we’ll begin to move toward building out a 10 Gigabit symmetrical infrastructure that is ubiquitously deployable across our footprint at fairly low capital investments relatively to anybody else,” Rutledge said. “…We can attach wireless devices to that high-capacity wireline network in a way I don’t think anybody else can do at the same level of capital efficiency and get tremendous throughput, low latency, high compute networks that bring the possibility down the road to a whole new industry essentially.”