TIS 2023: Independent providers remain divided on the wireless MVNO opportunity

Aug. 2, 2023
Independent cable operators and fiber providers weigh the potential risks and opportunities to offer wireless services via an MVNO agreement.

Minneapolis—The Independent Show 2023—The idea of cable and fiber providers adding wireless services through an MVNO agreement has been introduced previously. Large cable operators such as Charter, Comcast and Altice USA have well-established agreements to provide wireless service and bundle it with their video and broadband offerings.

But what about the independent cable and fiber broadband provider community? 

Speaking on the Leaders Panel: "Technology Disruptors, Keeping up with Change & Evolving Customer Needs," a group of independent cable and competitive fiber providers, however, remain divided on the value of entering into such deals.

MTCO Communications, an independent ILEC that has been upgrading its copper network to fiber, sees the potential to use wireless to further the customer bond.

Brian Kettman, CTO of MTCO Communications, said that an MVNO arrangement and wireless is akin to its dedication to maintaining video as part of its service lineup.

“It’s a lot like video,” he said. “It helps you capture the customer and the stickiness of having an important extra service for the customer.”

While he did not indicate if he’s developing an MVNO relationship, Kettman added that offering wireless as part of a broader bundle could drive customer longevity. “When you tie in wireless with internet and TV or just cellular and internet service, that’s a sticky customer.”

Ken Johnson, chief digital and technology officer NewWave Communications, agreed it could drive more customer loyalty.

New Wave has been examining the business case of an MVNO arrangement. “An MVNO platform could be complementary to our business,” he said. “We’ve been looking at it for three or four years, and we’re still trying to figure out what to do.”

He cautioned that while “we see the economics as being challenging, recognize the big payoff to reduce churn.”

Cash Hagen, CTO of Bluepeak, recalled how the former Sprint posed itself as an MVNO partner circa 2006 to cable and other providers, but the same issues remain to make it work. “What’s different in 2023?” Hagen said. “The economics a challenge. Being in the handset business is a challenge.”

He emphasized that Bluepeak, which operates as a cable operator and FTTH provider, is “do what we do well and do it better and focus on core competency.”   

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