Sprint Exploring New Wireless Deal With Charter, Comcast: WSJ

Sprint has entered exclusive talks with Comcast and Charter Communications to discuss an agreement that could boost the cable operators's plans to offer wireless services, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The paper said Sprint chairman Masayoshi Son and the MSOs are in a two-month, exclusive deal that could include investments by Charter and Comcast aimed at upgrading Sprint’s network in exchange for “favorable terms” to offer wireless service on Sprint’s network. Subsequently, Sprint’s merger talks with T-Mobile are now on hold, the WSJ said.

Comcast has already launched a wireless service under its own brand, Xfinity Mobile, via its MVNO agreement with Verizon Communications. Comcast is bundling that mobile service with its high-speed internet service and is currently limiting sales to within its cable market footprint.  Charter Communications inherited a similar agreement via its acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and has said it has plans to introduce a wireless product next year

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Comcast and Charter Communications recently confirmed that they would “explore potential opportunities for operational cooperation” in wireless, with a focus on operational efficiencies, including common operating platforms, technical standards, device logistics and emerging wireless tech platforms.  That agreement reportedly would prohibit Comcast or Charter from making a major wireless acquisition without the other's consent for one year.

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Charter and Comcast declined to comment on the WSJ story. 

A person familiar with the situation said Comcast’s interest in talking with Sprint is centered on improving its existing MVNO agreement with Sprint, which was signed almost a decade ago. About that time, Comcast,  Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications confirmed they had cut ties with Pivot, a wireless service reseller joint venture with Sprint.

The WSJ said Sprint’s Son has been open to a new deal with Comcast and Charter that would give the cable operators more flexibility and control of a mobile service that would ride on Sprint’s network.

WSJ also posited a scenario, though unlikely, that the talks could open up the possibility for Charter and Comcast to make a play to acquire Sprint.

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