Traditional cable companies such as WideOpenWest will have to rethink their strategies in the near future with commercial 5G looming on the horizon, a prospect that apparently has WideOpenWest Senior VP of Video Programming Roger Seiken "very worried." Speaking at a pay TV conference, Seiken shared a stage with Steven Sklar, CenturyLink's VP of video strategy. Sklar agreed with Seiken's general sentiment, but took a more optimistic tone, saying that the rise of 5G will force companies like his to offer more for consumers, bolster their networks, and become more consumer-friendly. While Sklar seemed determined to address 5G in a proactive manner, Seiken's view was far more pessimistic, with him quoted as saying, "Eventually, they're going to force us out of the business."
Pessimism aside, one area that was talked about at great length was bundles. Having long been a way to entice customers to buy more services and stick with a single provider for all of their home-based needs, bundles have fallen out of favor in the era of cord-cutting, with many opting to ditch home phones entirely in favor of their cell phones, and leave cable packages on the table while opting for "skinny bundles" and streaming services. This shift speaks to how cable companies will have to do business. Mobile providers are unlikely to move into home broadband just as 5G is commercialized, which could give cable companies a bit of a head start in reshaping to fit consumers' new needs. Many providers these days run their networks with a focus on cost-saving measures so that they can charge a fair price for internet-only packages and let consumers provide their own home entertainment, with CenturyLink being one example of this trend.
One of the subtler yet more potentially troublesome issues with 5G and cable companies is the possibility of fixed-point 5G coverage. Since 5G networks will provide more than adequate bandwidth at each node, it would be quite feasible for companies developing 5G solutions to install at customers' homes and provide large amounts of bandwidth at high speeds, or even unlimited plans. This is unlikely to happen until mobile 5G is sorted out, but nonetheless, it means that broadband providers, especially speaking in terms of bundles, will have to lower prices and provide more compelling packages with more modern hardware and a better customer experience in order to have any hope of competing. Small web-only providers like ClearWire and larger outfits like Google Fiber present an additional challenge in this arena, despite having to deal with 5G themselves. However the rollout of commercial 5G may play out, it's a race at this point, at least in the US, which means that companies sitting in the path will have limited time to adapt.