Altice explains how its forthcoming ‘infrastructure-based’ MVNO will be different

Altice—the nation’s fourth-largest cable company with roughly 5 million customers across about a dozen states—is planning to launch mobile services next year through an MVNO partnership with Sprint. But Altice said its forthcoming service won’t be just any old MVNO.

“The Altice full infrastructure-based MVNO will rely critically, but minimally, on mobile network operator (MNO) partners, utilizing only the radio access network (RAN) of the MNO,” the company explained in a recent FCC filing (PDF), arguing that its “full infrastructure-based MVNO” is decidedly different from “white label” MVNOs and “light” MVNOs. “Altice will supply all other aspects of the mobile offering, including the SIM, roaming and network partners, data and internet access, voice messaging, rate charging, customer care and billing.”

Continued Altice: “A full infrastructure-based MVNO, such as Altice, will provide facilities-based competition to the MNOs, including meaningful price competition, and innovation in products and services for customers, advancing its own competitive destiny. ‘White label’ MVNOs and ‘light’ MVNOs have limited latitude to innovate, reselling products and services controlled by the MNO, and offering competition only with respect to a small margin of wholesale/retail pricing which is, again, controlled by the MNO. ‘White label’ and ‘light’ MVNOs are really just an extension of the MNO offering and will not exert the same competitive pressures as the full infrastructure-based MVNO that Altice will offer.”

Altice inked a deal with Sprint at the end of last year, immediately after one of Sprint’s attempts to merge with T-Mobile fell apart. The deal calls for Sprint to use Altice’s wired network to deploy small cells and other network gear, while Altice will use Sprint’s network to launch a mobile service similar to Charter’s Spectrum Mobile and Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile MVNO services.

And it’s fair to say that Altice’s expectations are high: An Altice executive hinted in August that the company might be able to make a more profitable run at the wireless business than Charter and Comcast have been able to do.

“We want to make this a profitable standalone business,” Altice’s Dexter Goei said during the company’s recent quarterly conference call with analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. “So, we don't anticipate, even in our first year of operation, to lose money on this. There may be working capital timing differences relative to handsets and how we treat those, but in terms of losing money, we are not going to lose money.”

Altice issued its latest MVNO comments to the FCC in relation to the agency’s review of the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, which was initially announced in April. Altice is urging the commission to require that the merged company “commit to long-term, nationwide agreements for all MVNOs across the improved coverage of the New T-Mobile, thereby supporting this new source of competition and mitigating the anticompetitive harms of the proposed transaction.”