Charter spotlights growth opportunities around upselling, RDOF

Charter Spectrum broadband
Charter added 355,000 total internet customers in Q1. (Charter Communications)

Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge highlighted the company’s potential to upsell broadband customers as data usage grows but noted it didn’t yet feel the need to pursue a rollout of symmetrical capabilities.

During an earnings call, Rutledge said it “continued to see significant growth in data usage per internet customer” in Q1 2021, stating this had reached an average of about 700 GB per month. He added nearly 20% of its non-video internet customers are now using a terabyte or more of data per month.

Rutledge spotlighted “a lot” of opportunity to upsell customers to higher service tiers, noting the vast majority of its broadband subscriber base was on its base-level product offering 200 Mbps download speeds. “We haven’t done much of that, really. We do it, and obviously we satisfy the market, but the bulk of our customer base is at the entry-level speed,” he explained.

However, the CEO insisted it didn’t yet feel pressure to pursue symmetrical capabilities, explaining most of the aforementioned usage was “television being delivered through IP to households.”

“The actual upstream usage is quite sufficient for all the current uses we have,” Rutledge said. “So, we don’t have an immediate need to expand the capacity of the plant, and the plant is actually used in a very asymmetric way by the products that are currently on it, and we don’t see that changing in the near term.”

Meanwhile, CFO Christopher Winfrey highlighted the potential for additional growth opportunities to spring from its previously announced Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) buildout to 1 million new locations.

RELATED: Charter splashes some details on its fiber build outs across 24 states for RDOF

While projects like the one it’s undertaking for RDOF have a higher cost per passing and a longer payback period, they can also create “additional building opportunities on the edge of those networks.” Winfrey added “some of these rural communities, by having broadband, can actually have more fill-in or become more suburban-like, which could open up opportunities which aren’t built into our model.”

Q1 metrics

Charter added 355,000 total internet customers in Q1, down from 582,000 net additions in the year-ago quarter. It shed 138,000 video and 88,000 voice customers, but gained 300,000 wireless subscribers.

Consolidated revenue of $12.5 billion was up nearly 7% year on year from $11.7 billion, with net income of $807 million up from $396 million. Internet revenue increased 15% to $5.1 billion.