Comcast launched a mobile product that takes advantage of its MVNO deal with Verizon Wireless about a year ago and Charter Communications is about to follow, but the volume of activity from this new wave of quasi-competitive providers is “relatively small,” Matthew Ellis, Verizon’s EVP and CFO said on Tuesday’s Q1 earnings call.
“But…as they get traction, that will bring in more traffic to our network that we can monetize as well,” he added. “So we’re happy with that side of the equation.”
For its part, Comcast added 187,000 Xfinity Mobile customer lines in Q4 2017, ending the year with more than 380,000, with most of them gravitating to the company’s by-the-Gig option (Comcast will announce Q1 2018 results tomorrow morning).
Charter, which has teamed with Comcast on a mobile operations agreement, will launch its product, to be called Spectrum Mobile, by mid-year. Altice USA has opted for a “full” MVNO deal with Sprint, but won’t launch its mobile product until next year.
Moving to 5G, Ellis said Verizon has completed its 11-city pre-commercial trials, where it has demonstrated propagation over 2,000 feet from the node using millimeter wave spectrum. Verizon is now moving ahead with plans to launch a 5G-based residential fixed wireless broadband service in as many as five markets, including Sacramento, in the second half of 2018.
“We are very much on track with being in a position to launch each of those cities later this year,” Ellis said.
As for adding mobility to 5G, Verizon will “be ready as soon as equipment is ready on the global standard,” he noted, adding that Verizon feels comfortable that it can launch mobile 5G with the assets it has.
“We are not building a 5G network for residential broadband and a different 5G network for mobility. We are deploying a 5G network that will have multiple revenue streams off of it,” the exec said.
Ellis also offered a small hint that Verizon’s coming OTT TV product will be tied to the 5G rollout.
“We continue to look at OTT options, and, as we’ve said previously, we’re not looking to launch a me-too product, but [we] certainly expect to have an overall product offering to consumers in those three to five markets what will be compelling to meet their needs.”
Verizon hasn’t outlined its specific pricing and packing plans for the OTT TV product, but it will be playing from behind, given the number of products already on the market. AT&T, for example, is following up DirecTV Now with a sports-free skinny TV bundle that will be offered for free to mobile customers on unlimited data plans and in the neighborhood of $15 per month to all others.