Another cable operator signals plans to get into wireless

The parent company of Atlantic Broadband—which is North America’s eighth largest cable operator with services in 11 states along the U.S. East Coast—said it plans to engage in a “low-risk approach” to entering the wireless business.

However, the company appears to be setting its sights on an entry into the Canadian wireless market, not the U.S. wireless market. Cogeco Communications owns the Atlantic Broadband brand in the United States but also operates a landline network in parts of Ontario and Quebec—and the company’s CEO said this week that Cogeco would likely join its larger Canadian rivals by deploying some kind of mobile service.

“At this point in time, the opportunity exists to start with the blank sheet of paper and leapfrog existing legacy network topology and build directly using the technologies of the future,” Cogeco’s Louis Audet said this week during the company’s quarterly conference call with investors, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. “Hence, Cogeco Communications may conceivably participate in the benefits of existing wireless services such as voice, data and internet as well as inexpensively explore emerging low latency services such as the Internet of Things, driverless cars, internet cities, intelligent cities and the like.”

Audet explained that the time is right for Cogeco to enter Canada’s wireless market because Canadians are looking for additional options in mobile and because forthcoming 5G network technology “relies on smaller cells, which are located closer to the user and can generally be mounted on cable facilities and they can easily be set by existing fiber dense networks at little or no additional feeder cost.”

He added that the company would likely bid on 600 MHz spectrum in Canada’s upcoming auction of those licenses, and would likely rely on a hybrid MVNO approach to the wireless market. Under such a model, the company would operate some of its own network equipment while relying on a mobile network from another company for wider coverage in Canada.

Cogeco’s newfound interest in wireless doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, as The Canadian Press noted, most of the country’s other landline and cable operators have already entered the wireless market in some form.

Moreover, U.S. cable companies have also been making moves into the U.S. mobile market via similar strategies. Last year Comcast lead the charge with the launch of its Xfinity Mobile service, leveraging an MVNO relationship with Verizon, and Charter recently joined Comcast with its own Spectrum Mobile offering. Altice, further, plans to launch an MVNO through Sprint next year.

As additional cable companies like Cogeco tease plans to enter the wireless market, it’s possible that smaller U.S. cable operators may join the trend.