Cablevision, Suddenlink Owner Altice May Join U.S. Cell Phone Market

Image courtesy of Silver Machine

With only four major U.S. wireless providers (and possibly three, if T-Mobile and Sprint merge), and a growing number of Americans whose primary connection to the world is through their phones, it makes sense that traditional cable operators are realizing they need to go mobile to reach cord-cutters and cord-nevers. Altice, the Dutch parent company of Cablevision and Suddenlink, is the latest cable biggie to say it may jump into the wireless fray stateside.

Altice’s top executive definitely has mobile on his mind, Reuters reports today.

In remarks to reporters on Monday, Altice USA head Dexter Goei said, “We are having discussions on lots of different types of alternatives out there,” when it comes to trying to figure out mobile.

“Part of our core strategy and DNA is to continue to look at acquisitions,” Goei did admit to reporters, but did not elaborate on whether Altice is looking at buying a mobile provider to kickstart that particular business.

With about five million subscribers, Reuters notes, Altice is the fourth-largest cable company in the U.S. However, it falls well behind the two largest, Comcast and Charter, which boast roughly 25 million subscribers each. And those two not only both have mobile plans in the works, but have agreed to work together to make them cross-compatible in each other’s geographic footprint and spread their reach nationwide.

Goei told press he found the Comcast/Charter partnership “interesting and innovative,” but said his company probably wasn’t interested in hopping on board. “I don’t think there is a necessity for us to join anything today,” he answered when asked if Altice would like to participate.

But, he added, “we’re clearly not the types of people to sit back and watch.”

The Altice Group is no stranger to wireless. It owns SFR, which currently has around 14 million mobile customers in France.

Cablevision tried once before to launch a mobile service, back in Jan. 2015. That Wifi-baed service, Freewheel, was limited to New York City, and it didn’t go so well. Altice completed its purchase of Cablevision in June, 2016, and one week later announced it was shutting down Freewheel for good.

But now, mobile competition continues to heat up as businesses have their eye on the next generation of wireless broadband. Everyone has their eye on 5G, the eventual successor to today’s 4G LTE mobile networks. 5G isn’t a real thing yet, but the international standard is expected to be finalized in early-to-mid 2018 — and when it is, ever provider out there wants to be ready to go. Including the cable providers whose networks may suddenly look slow and antique in comparison.