Comcast pursuing industry shakeup with launch of wireless service

by Fredrick Graves April 7, 2017, 2:20
Comcast pursuing industry shakeup with launch of wireless service

So if you're not already on the Comcast gravy train, don't expect to get a good deal on the fancy new Xfinity Wireless unless you want Comcast to be your ISP, too. Up to eighty percent of smartphone data traffic in the USA travels over Wi-Fi, not cellular networks, making Wi-Fi a key solution to today's mobile data consumption.

Comcast holds rights to lease access to Verizon's mobile network on a wholesale basis as the result of a radio spectrum sale to Verizon in 2011. This came as talks regarding Comcast's mobile initiatives began heating up surrounding a standalone carrier service from the cable provider. This isgoo along the lines of what Google does with its Project Fi service. As an establishment player, Comcast needs less money and muscle to acquire customers and set up a support infrastructure in the manner that it is running its MVNO service. It will employ Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hot spots within its footprint, allowing customers to switch automatically onto Wi-Fi from 4G LTE.

Comcast's service will support iPhones, high-end Samsung phones, as well as more modest handsets from LG.

With the tagline, "A new kind of network", Xfinity Mobile has two pricing tiers. That's part of why Comcast is emphasizing this as a WiFi-first service.

The mobile plans will be available only for Comcast home Internet customers.

Many of these complaints center around Comcast's customer service, and Xfinity Mobile seems to be trying to improve that with options like 24/7 technical and billing support via SMS text. Comcast says roughly 25% of its X1 user base would be eligible for this today.

The unlimited plan will cost $65 per line or, if you subscribe to Comcast's Xfinity Premier Double Play or Triple Play, $45 per line.

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Customers can also pay as they go at $12/GB of data - and switch from that plan to unlimited and back again with no penalties. Comcast is promising that its customers will be on equal footing with Verizon customers when accessing that network. Paying $65 a month for a single line with unlimited everything is a deal.

All of this is done through auto-pay billing.

Comcast views Xfinity Mobile as a way to expand the traditional cable bundle, adding a fourth service on top of residential Internet, landline phone service and cable television. It will charge taxes, though, so these rates will be a bit higher than advertised.

Verizon and AT&T reintroduced unlimited-data plans in early 2017 after T-Mobile US (TMUS) and Sprint (S) gained share with aggressive unlimited promotions. Case in point: Comcast in its announcement cites a Nielsen report that found 70% of USA wireless customers use less than 5 GB of data per month.

Also, you can't bring your own device, at least not yet. Comcast says it will add that option sometime in the future. In other words, they are a prepaid network that uses another carrier's network for service. That practice, known as "zero-rating", has been used by various other mobile carriers in recent years, and has raised concerns from net-neutrality advocates along the way.

Comcast did not make it clear just when this service will launch, though it has been offering it to its employees for some time. We'll have to see. Bundles will be available to both legacy Comcast customers and new customers alike.

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