UPDATE: Comcast, Charter Make Wireless Partnership Official
Comcast and Charter Communications are close to forging a wireless partnership that will allow the two cable companies to share information and technology, yet keep their product offerings separate.
Sources familiar with both companies confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal Sunday night that the agreement, which could be announced as early as Monday, would prohibit either of the two from making a major wireless acquisition without the other's consent for one year. That could restart speculation that Comcast and Charter could join forces to purchase a carrier like Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile.
According to people familiar with the agreement, the two companies will not offer a nationwide wireless service. Instead, they say the main intention of the partnership is to drive greater cost efficiencies in the wireless business. Characterized as an operational cooperation agreement, it would allow both companies to run their own wireless businesses separately but share components like the billing platform and device logistics.
Comcast unveiled its own wireless service in April -- XFinity Mobile -- which should be available to its entire footprint later this month. That service utilizes a Mobile Virtual Network Operator agreement the company has with the nation's largest wireless carrier, Verizon.
Charter has a similar MVNO agreement with Verizon and had expected to launch a product next year.
Cable companies have tried and failed several times to tackle the wireless business through partnerships with Sprint and Clearwire. But as mobile technology becomes more ubiquitous, cable operators have looked at the service as a retention tool and a differentiator against competing over-the-top video services.