Cable giant Comcast offers cellular plans on Verizon network

Melba UnderwoodApr 07, 2017

Cable giant Comcast announced today that it will be starting a wireless service called Xfinity Mobile that will launch in the middle of this year.

But Comcast is not doing anything to encourage those switchers who need a new phone, either.

Comcast has an agreement with Verizon to use its wireless network for MVNO purposes and is said to have bid in the 600MHz spectrum auction that has just ended - the company won't be able to disclose its winnings, if any, until the FCC-mandated grace period is through.

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

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

Up to 80 percent of smartphone data traffic in the US travels over Wi-Fi and not over cellular networks, according to a news release.

Schwartz says, "every inch of their network will be available to our subscribers as well". (Verizon, of course, gains some incremental business.) But Schwartz adds that more than 80% of the data that people consume on their smartphones is over Wi-Fi.

The service, called Xfinity Mobile, is expected to launch in May or June, and it is only available to consumers who also buy at least home internet from Comcast. Xfinity Mobile said it will also feature the best devices from Samsung and LG. Out of the gate you won't be able to bring your own phone to the service.

Comcast plans to use automatic provisioning, authentication and discovery to take the friction out of Wi-Fi connections. Customers will also be purchase plans by the gig, at $12 per gigabyte of data across all lines per month. About 70% of customers use less than 5 GB per month, Butz says. "Therefore, you have only to pay for your data". And when it comes to unlimited, Verizon itself has a data plan of $180 for four lines. Paying Verizon for bandwidth is a prudent way to start.

Beyond that, those with what the company describes as "our best X1 packages" could pay $45 a line for unlimited cellular data.

Those prices are slightly cheaper than typical wireless plans, and Comcast is hoping a few other perks will draw customers in: it won't charge arbitrary line access fees; it'll let families have some phones on the unlimited plan and others on the pay-as-you-go plan; and it'll let pay-as-you-go customers switch in the middle of a month over to an unlimited plan, without penalty. Interestingly, Comcast will offer equipment installment pricing options for those phones, which spread the cost of the phone across 24 monthly, interest-free payments.

In telecom circles, Comcast's plans and efforts to wade into the mobile market go back years. In addition, Xfinity home internet customers can get 100MB for free each month (up to five lines).

Comcast will throttle or reduce speeds after 20GB of cellular usage. The service will tap into Comcast Xfinity apps in allowing viewing of up to 200 live TV channels and 40,000 on demand movies and shows.

"I just don't see Xfinity Mobile being created to be a market disrupter", he says. He adds, though, that "things won't happen overnight" and "we will make adjustments over time". "I think the rest of the wireless industry breathed a collective sigh of relief after this announcement". "We have a really efficient business model". Subscribers can choose between two plans. "You're going to become a loyal customer".

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