Comcast pursuing industry shakeup with launch of wireless service

Posted April 07, 2017

Comcast last fall had announced its intentions to enter the wireless business by mid-2017.

Rival cable provider Charter Communications Inc CHTR.O is also planning to launch a wireless service in 2018.

Who will be able to use Xfinity Mobile?

There are more than a few caveats about Xfinity Mobile, however. It's not clear, for example, if the Verizon-Comcast deal extends to 5G wireless networks. It will cost Comcast $20 to $30 a month per customer to provide cellular data from Verizon's service, Philip Cusick, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase, wrote in a January research note.

Are you one of the three people in America who's always wanted to get cell service from America's most-hated company? "We're not taking on the entire wireless industry", says Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer for Comcast Cable.

XFinity Mobile is created to be flexible and a good deal for Comcast's customers: Xfinity Internet customers get five lines with no line access fees, with unlimited talk and text at no extra cost. There's also an "unlimited" data plan, throttled in some unspecified way after 20GB. So if you start out on the unlimited plan, but notice that you're not using that much per month, you can switch to the other option. That's a bit higher than the $10 Google charges for its similar offering via its Project Fi service. "But unlike Verizon or AT&T, adding more wireless lines doesn't bring the price down". Comcast says you can switch back and forth without paying a penalty so that if in a given month you're using more data than you expected under the by-the-gig plan, you can switch to unlimited. With traditional carriers, unused data might get carried over to the following month; even if not, the customer still pays for the unused amount.

Families can mix and match plans based on a person. For example, mom and dad might have unlimited plans, while kids are put on a data diet.

Payments are automatically billed through your credit card.

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The company did not discuss pricing for mobile devices, but noted that it will support popular offerings from companies such as Apple and Samsung.

Mobile devices on offer will include iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE.

Customers will sign up online using an interface demonstrated during today's investor webcast - an approach Comcast called "Digital First" and which is an example of a broad trend toward digital transformation that is being adopted in a wide range of industries as a means of improving the customer experience while also reducing costs. Comcast said it has simplified that process.

"Comcast understands the need to get back into the wireless business for their own survival".

In fact, the company first dove into the cellphone market in 1988 with the acquisition of American Cellular Network - forming the Comcast Cellular Communications division - and in 1992 it acquired a controlling interest in Metromedia's Metrophone cellular phone system.

Whether Comcast customers will want to double down and buy it all from one place remains to be seen, of course.

On Thursday morning, Comcast will finally unveil its secretive plan to launch a new mobile service.