Charter CFO on multi-gig broadband: ‘If you build it, they will come’

Charter Communications is rolling out high-split upgrades across its cable network in a move designed to allow it to offer multi-gig symmetrical speeds in the near future. While executives don’t think customers necessarily need those kinds of speeds, Charter CFO Jessica Fischer said the boost will give it a competitive marketing claim that will help it fend off advances from fiber players.

“A good portion of it is about addressing the marketing message,” Fischer said of the upgrades. “Certainly people in their homes doing a couple of Zoom feeds, having a couple of people watching television, the actual bandwidth that they consume isn’t that high. But I do think cable and connectivity has always been sort of an ‘if you build it they will come’ kind of business.”

She continued: “Is there a use case today? I’m not sure that there are particularly good use cases today. But in the long run I think that the past has shown that we’ll see those use cases develop and so we think that we need to be there with a product to deliver to be able to serve that future use case.”

Fischer said that the faster speeds coupled with its mobile and other product offerings will help it remain a competitive share taker in the broadband market well into the future. However, she noted it’s not actually the competitive environment that’s been hampering net additions in recent quarters. In Q1, Charter’s broadband net additions fell to 185,000 from 355,000 the year prior.

The CFO revealed that gross additions and churn were down in Q1 by the same percentage both in areas where it does and does not have a gigabit broadband competitor. And while 38% of its footprint is overlapped by gig services, she said the growth of that overlap has not changed significantly in the last eight to ten quarters. Meanwhile, on the fixed wireless access front, Fischer reiterated previous assertions that Charter isn’t seeing much of an impact. But to the extent that it may be losing out she said it expects those customers to ultimately come back to a wired provider like Charter in the long run.

Ultimately, slower broadband growth isn’t a competition problem, she said. “Movement in our markets is what generates net adds for us and there was just extraordinarily low movement in our markets. And really there continues to be extraordinarily low movements even if it’s sort of moved up from” the rate in Q1, Fischer concluded.


Charter announced during Q1 earnings that it finished building out its mobile core for deployments of CBRS (3.5Ghz) spectrum. Fischer said the operator is comfortable with how initial testing has shown the wireless system to work on a small scale and noted a broader trial set for the second half of the year will focus on scaling out the technology.

She reiterated the operator expects to take a targeted approach to deploying its own mobile infrastructure and plans to focus strategic deployments in high-traffic areas to help it shift more wireless traffic off of MVNO partner Verizon’s network and onto its own. Fischer said decisions about whether to pursue broader rollouts of wireless infrastructure over time will depend on a range of factors, but did not elaborate.

Overall, Fischer indicated Charter believes it has plenty of runway to make gains in the mobile space. “We have like 54 million overall passings. We have 2.5 million mobile customers. And so the opportunity we have to connect additional customers on our network and to do it while saving them money as well as while generating financial growth for Charter is actually pretty incredible,” she stated.