If you're getting tired of reading about operators' 5G rollout plans, then take a deep breath before diving into this story about Charter's "6G" wireless ambitions.
Yes, Charter Communications Inc. , the second-biggest cable and broadband provider in the US, is talking about rolling out 6G wireless service. But, as Light Reading's Mari Silbey spelled out in a recent story on our sister site, the cableco uniquely defines 6G as not a next-next-generation of wireless technology but rather a converged communications infrastructure of wired and wireless technologies. (See Don't Laugh, Charter Is Testing '6G' Wireless.)
Speaking on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call late last week, Charter Chairman & CEO Tom Rutledge predictably discussed the company's upcoming mobile service, which is based on an MVNO agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and is slated to launch by the summer. Tempering expectations for a major new competitive presence in the cellular space, Rutledge stressed that the goal of the MVNO service will be to "create and retain more cable customers."
As might be expected, Rutledge also discussed Charter's 5G wireless trials. He said those trials, which have already begun, are going smoothly so far.
But then, just to keep things interesting, Rutledge made a quick segue into what he likes to call 6G wireless. "Our 5G wireless tests are going well, as are our 6G tests, which is our pre-spec definition of the integration of small cell architecture using unlicensed and licensed spectrum working together interchangeably with our advanced DOCSIS roadmap to create high-capacity, low-latency product offerings," he said in a mouthful. "We expect that over time our existing infrastructure will put us in a unique position to economically deploy new powerful products that benefit from small cell connectivity." (See also If Anyone Mentions 6G to Me at MWC….)
As Silbey notes in her Light Reading piece, Rutledge's definition of 6G is pretty specific to Charter's use case, or at least to a cable network architecture. But it does follow from other discussions about combining small cell radios with DOCSIS networks and leveraging the 3.5GHz band (Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS) to support new wireless services. (See Charter Plans In-Home Small Cell Gateway and Cisco: Cable Nets Can Backhaul Small Cells.)
Rutledge's latest treatise on the subject also matches up with the "inside out" strategy that large cable operators are adopting as they seek to extend their connectivity presence from inside the home to outside the home and well beyond. (See Ericsson Is Building a DOCSIS Small Cell.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading