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NCTC, AT&T partner to offer wireless service through small cable companies

The deal allows small, rural cable operators the ability to bundle TV, wireless phone and Internet.

The deal allows small, rural cable operators the ability to bundle TV, wireless phone and Internet.

An AT&T retail store.
An AT&T retail store. (Handout photo courtesy AT&T, Graphic by The Desk)

The National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC) has struck a deal with AT&T that will allow smaller cable operators to offer wireless phone service.

The partnership opens the door for NCTC’s 700-plus member regional, suburban and rural cable and telecommunication providers to bundle white label versions of AT&T’s wireless phone service with their existing cable television, home phone and broadband Internet products.

The news was first reported Thursday afternoon by the website Light Reading, who spoke with NCTC’s CEO Lou Borrelli about the plan. According to Borelli, the NCTC spoke with several wireless phone networks — presumably including T-Mobile and Verizon, though the story didn’t mention them by name — and ultimately determined AT&T was the best provider to serve its members.

“While you can imagine that price was one of the two or three things we considered, what it really came down to was current network availability and performance,” Borrelli told the website, adding that AT&T’s network “had the fewest areas where there would be service concerns.”

It wasn’t clear how NCTC determined AT&T had the best network compared to other providers, or what methodology was used to support that belief.

The partnership between AT&T and NCTC comes at a time when traditional pay television companies are increasingly tapping into white label wireless phone service as a way to keep TV and Internet customers within their ecosystem.

For several years, Comcast has offered customers access to Verizon’s network through its Xfinity Mobile product. The service offers low-cost phone plans when bundled with a cable or Internet customer’s bill. Charter offers a similar service called Spectrum Mobile, which also runs on Verizon’s network. Cox Cable launched its own Verizon-powered wireless phone product earlier this year.

T-Mobile also has partnerships with major cable companies, including Altice U.S. and WideOpenWest (WOW!), which offer private label wireless phone service to their cable TV and Internet subscribers.

The deal with NCTC is AT&T’s first major deal to offer white label phone service through a cable television provider or consortium, and comes about three years after the company expressed an initial interest in partnering with cable television and Internet companies for consumer and business bundles. Financial terms of the arrangement weren’t disclosed.

Borrelli affirmed some NCTC members will be able to offer wireless phone service powered by AT&T’s network in the coming weeks and months. Light Reading speculated one member, Mediacom, might be among the first to offer AT&T service after spotting a trademark application for the brand “Mediacom Mobile.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).