small cell

Key Charter near-term investment areas include upgrading the company’s HFC/DOCSIS infrastructure to support a high-split approach and deploying small cells that use spectrum in the CBRS band to support the company’s mobile offering, said Charter Chief Financial Officer Jessica Fischer at an investor event today.

High-split upgrades are designed to increase the broadband speeds that cable operators can provide, particularly on the upstream path, by devoting a greater portion of an operator’s hybrid fiber coax infrastructure to the upstream path. This is accomplished using diplex filters.

Charter is doing high-split upgrades in “a handful of markets” this year and plans to do more next year, Fischer said.

She also noted that the upgrades are “pretty fast and efficient.”

She added, however, that the company has “the ability to pivot if a different technology becomes the right thing for us to do” or if a different approach would be more appropriate for a specific market.

Plans could involve deploying DOCSIS 4.0, but as of now DOCSIS 4.0 equipment is “not available at scale yet,” Fischer said.

She noted, though, that Charter is testing DOCSIS 4.0 technology and that the testing shows that the technology “will be capital efficient to deploy when we get there and will work well.”

Charter Small Cell Plans

Charter’s small cell plans are aimed at minimizing the company’s dependence on using another carrier’s infrastructure to support the company’s burgeoning mobile offering.

The small cell deployments will be “very targeted” and the overall expenditure on them will be “pretty modest,” Fischer said.

Fischer did not discuss whether Charter plans to use the licensed or unlicensed portion of the CBRS band, but considering that the company was one of the biggest winners in the CBRS auction, the company is likely using that spectrum where available, perhaps in combination with unlicensed spectrum.

Overall, Charter’s upcoming capital expenditures will be similar to or less than what they are currently, Fischer said.

Fischer made her comments at a Bank of America investor event, which was a webcast.

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