Altice Mobile Expands MVNO Deal to T-Mobile 5G Network, Signs Separate Roaming Agreement with AT&T

Cable operator says things shook out favorably for its new wireless service amid regulatory approval for the T-Mobile/Sprint merger
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Altice USA said its new mobile service has completed its employee testing and is ready for a commercial launch “this summer.”

Dexter Goei, Altice USA chair/CEO

Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei

Reporting 3.7% second-quarter revenue growth to $2.45 billion, the Bethpage, N.Y. cable operator highlighted the imminent launch of its new mobile service, and explained to investment analysts just how it will function now that its major MVNO partner, Sprint, has been purchased by T-Mobile.

Pending regulatory conditions and commitments, Altice USA’s MVNO deal with Sprint will be “expanded” into a seven-year wholesale agreement to utilize T-Mobile’s wireless network, including T-Mobile’s emerging 5G infrastructure.

Related: Report: Altice USA Close to Selling Lightpath Stake

The MVNO deal extends through the life of the seven-year consent degree, laid out in T-Mobile’s agreement with regulators to buy Sprint for $26 billion. According to Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei, the merger effectively extends Altice Mobile's MVNO deal three more years beyond the expiration of its legacy Sprint MVNO agreement.

That, according to Goei, gives Altice “three more years” to think about a future in which it moves beyond MVNO arrangements, building out its own wireless infrastructure.

“And the expansion organically or inorganically, will allow us to market to more geographies,” he noted.

Goei said Altice USA is pleased with how its MVNO situation shook out amid the processes with the FCC and U.S. Justice Department. He cautioned that arrangements could change at the state attorney generals level. 

Beyond the T-Mobile MVNO deal, Altice Mobile will leverage the cable operator’s upgraded public WiFi network, its fiber assets and the shared small-cell infrastructure it had been building out under its agreement with Sprint.

Separately, Altice USA announced a new complementary nationwide roaming agreement with AT&T, which it said will give its new mobile platform 99% nationwide coverage.

Goei gave no details on Altice Mobile pricing. Is the $25-a-month price reported for the employee test, the price we can expect to see when the service rolls out? “You’ll see when we launch," he said.

Meanwhile, Altice USA lost 21,000 video customers in the second quarter, vs. 24,000 in Q2 2018, marking what the company said was the sixth straight quarter in which it has reported year-over-year churn improvements.

The cable operator attributed this improvement to its Altice One CPE platform.

“And we have somewhat of a unique footprint,” Goei added, noting that the New York area has a “high video bundle market.”

Altice USA added 13,000 high-speed broadband users in Q2, an improvement over the 10,000 added in Q2 2018. Goei said that with the upgrade of the company’s Suddenlink footprint to DOCSIS 3.1, all of Altice USA’s footprint can now offer 1-gig speeds.

In the Optimum region, where Altice is rolling out fiber, the company expects to start delivering 10-gig symmetrical speeds in early 2020.

Hand in hand with the network investments have come improved financials for business services, which saw a 6.1% revenue increase in Q2.

Other financial data: Altice USA’s net income for the quarter was $86 million vs. a $98 million loss a year ago; adjusted EBITDA grew 7.3% to $1.08 billion.

Also, Altice USA is reportedly close to selling a minority stake in its commercial telecom unit Lightpath to Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, a New York private equity firm.

“This is an opportunistic situation for us,” Goei said. “It’s not a must-do.”

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