Charter Communications has selected Nokia to provide key products needed in trial markets as the cable company looks to offload leased MVNO usage of Verizon Communications’s wireless network onto its own infrastructure using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) technology.
In its announcement Monday, Dallas-based Nokia didn't reveal the monetary value of its big customer win. But it did say that Charter is buying radio access network (RAN) technology from its AirScale equipment portfolio.
These products include strand-mounted radios for CBRS, baseband units, and a newly developed CBRS-based strand-mount small cells all-in-one portfolio. The strand-mounted small cells will leverage Charter's existing DOCSIS wireline infrastructure and negate the need for the MSO to build additional cell sites.
According to a report issued last year by MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, the strand-mounted approach can save as much as 90% vs. traditional small cells because they can be hung between poles, nixing the need for permits, a separate power source, fiber backhaul and expensive labor costs for things such as fiber splicing.
Charter spent $465 million nearly three years ago to purchase 21 CBRS priority access licenses. At the time, the company said that 80% of Spectrum Mobile traffic was being delivered over its Wi-Fi network. But the aim was to drive even more wireless traffic away from pricey leased Verizon network usage that eats into margins.
Spectrum Mobile is currently the fastest-growing wireless service in the U.S. with nearly 6 million service lines. Moffett said he expects the wireless service to account for more than 7% of Charter's revenue by 2025.
“Incorporating Nokia’s innovative 5G technology into our advanced wireless converged network will help us ensure that Spectrum customers in areas with a high concentration of mobile traffic continue to receive superior mobile connectivity, including the nation’s fastest wireless speeds,” Justin Colwell, executive VP of connectivity technology at Charter, said in a statement.
“This news builds on our more than 20-year relationship working with Charter to enhance its network,” Shaun McCarthy, president of North America sales at Nokia, added. "We are excited to expand its current trial to additional select metropolitan markets in the U.S., enabling an enhanced user experience for Spectrum Mobile subscribers. This win strengthens Nokia’s leadership position in the MSO space for 5G wireless deployments.”