Nokia will deliver its AirScale portfolio, including 5G Radio Access Network (RAN), to support Charter Communications’ 5G rollout in trial markets. It marks Nokia’s first win in the cablecos/MSO space for large-scale wireless 5G deployments. Charter will use Nokia’s 5G RAN solutions to deliver wireless 5G connectivity, faster speeds, and increased network capacity to Spectrum Mobile customers in its trial markets in the United States.
Up until now, cablecos have been MVNO rather than actually deploying their own wireless networks. All of the cable companies in the U.S. with mobile aspirations have had to partner with an existing mobile network operator – Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile – to sell mobile services. And those MVNO partnerships are not cheap. For example, the financial analysts at Wells Fargo estimate that Charter and Comcast pay Verizon $12-$13 per month for each of their mobile customers.
Cable operators have spent more than $1 billion on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum with the intention to build 5G networks to offload traffic from their leased mobile networks and to deliver the fastest wireless service. Using compact and lightweight small cell products, cable operators can more easily and cost-effectively provide 5G wireless connectivity by leveraging their existing DOCSIS infrastructure without having to build additional cell sites.
With 6 million customer lines as of Q1-2023, Charter’s Spectrum Mobile is the nation’s fastest growing mobile network provider. Charter offers its Spectrum Mobile service through an MVNO deal with Verizon but touts its ability to combine that with its Wi-Fi network. It’s also using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum to offload mobile traffic from the leased network. Charter spent more than $464 million in the CBRS auction in 2020.
As Charter continues to grow its mobile customers, the company needed a 5G wireless connectivity solution to offload traffic from its leased mobile network. Charter will deploy Nokia’s 5G RAN products, including strand mounted radios for CBRS, baseband units, and a newly developed 5G CBRS Strand Mount Small Cells All-in-One portfolio on the company’s assets, which will help Charter continue to deliver mobile traffic in strategic locations across its 41-state footprint while providing customers with the best possible 5G service experience.
Justin Colwell, EVP, Connectivity Technology at Charter Communications, said: “Charter is committed to providing our customers a fully converged connectivity experience that combines high value plans with the fastest wired and wireless speeds throughout our footprint. 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.”
Shaun McCarthy, President of North America Sales at Nokia, said: “This news builds on our more than 20-year relationship working with Charter to enhance its network. We are excited to expand its current trial to additional select metropolitan markets in the US, enabling an enhanced user experience for Spectrum Mobile subscribers. This win strengthens Nokia’s leadership position in the MSO space for 5G wireless deployments.”
Nokia in the U.S.
Nokia is supplying 5G technologies across its portfolio to the major service providers and leading operators, as well as hyperscalers, enterprises, and government organizations in the US. The company has an unrivaled track record of innovation in the U.S. including Nokia Bell Labs, which pioneered many of the fundamental technologies that are being used to develop 5G and broadband standards. Today, more than 90 percent of the U.S. population is connected by Nokia network solutions.
*Based on year end 2022 subscriber data among top 3 cellular carriers.
Nokia may have competition in the CBRS/MSO space. Samsung will be introducing a new solution within its already existing CBRS portfolio: a new 5G CBRS Strand Small Cell. Designed to be easily deployed on the MSOs aerial strand assets, it enables use of their existing infrastructure, helping them save on deployment costs.