Monday, 11 December, 2017

Comcast Giving Cellphone Service Another Try

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Javier Burns | 07 April, 2017, 02:47

Comcast will operate as mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, leveraging Verizon's existing 4G LTE infrastructure and Comcast's own network of Xfinity WiFi hotspots to provide wireless service across the country.

The cable and Internet provider spelled out the details Thursday on the wireless service that CEO Brian Roberts announced last September would be coming.

Anyone who subscribes to a Comcast internet service below X1 can get an "unlimited" plan for $65 a month per line.

If you'd prefer to pay only for the data you use, it will offer a $12 per GB plan, which customers can switch to and away from within the app, even in the middle of a month.

The service will feature the popular phones such as Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy devices and LG phones. They can buy the phones outright or on a monthly interest-free installment plan, Comcast officials said. Comcast's Schwartz says that 80% of data is used over a Wi-Fi network, meaning that this plan might be suited for most Xfinity Mobile users. (NYSE: VZ)'s network for phone calls, while also automatically connecting customers to Xfinity WiFi hotspots for online activity. Instead, the effort seems to be about being able to offer a more complete package to its customers at a time when the TV, broadband and wireless industries are merging and overlapping. In a surprise announcement, Comcast has revealed Xfinity Mobile.

But Google Fi hasn't caught on, in part because it works with only a few Google-branded phones and uses networks from T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, which aren't as robust as Verizon's.

Details released on Thursday offer a glimpse of how Comcast plans to make inroads in an oversaturated market for USA wireless service that is increasingly price-driven.

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Comcast - which has participated in the recent government auction of wireless spectrum, rumored as both a seller of airwaves - can offer the wireless service now because of an agreement it reached six years ago with Verizon. Rather than owning and operating its own cell towers, Comcast is essentially renting wireless space from Verizon - so Comcast's customers will actually be connecting to Verizon's network.

The Xfinity Mobile deal quickly becomes less of a deal if you want to add more lines, because Comcast isn't offering discounts on those extra lines. It may not rival AT&T or Verizon anytime soon, but Comcast doesn't necessarily need it to.

The service will include two wireless plan options - one for unlimited data for one set price and up to five lines - and another pay-as-you-go plan. Comcast says roughly 25% of its X1 user base would be eligible for this today.

Comcast views the wireless phone service as an opportunity to create a business that will help it retain customers and sell more of its other products into homes.

"Wireless should be a positive driver of value for Comcast, and the market isn't giving them credit for it today", said Jonathan Chaplin, an industry analyst at New Street Research, in a note to investors Thursday.

Comcast's approach is to charge $45 a line for unlimited plans for its best customers.

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