Comcast Launches Xfinity Mobile For Smartphone Service

Randall Craig
April 7, 2017

Analysts at JPMorgan wrote in January that building a wireless business could cost Comcast hundreds of millions of dollars annually in the first few years, potentially cutting as much as 5 cents to 10 cents off earnings per share in 2017. With mainstream wireless carriers such as Verizon and AT&T ramping up offerings in unlimited data and online video, Comcast said offering cellphone service can help the company retain customers and extend the reach of its traditional TV product. That's significantly cheaper than most unlimited plans on the market, and Comcast estimates that about 25% of its customers fall into this category. While the mobile plan will mainly be powered by its 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots, it will also leverage Verizon's (VZ - Free Report) wireless network. The company announced Thursday details about Xfinity Mobile, its newest program that offers phones and mobile service to customers.

Comcast is leaping into a highly competitive industry that has seen companies such as T-Mobile and AT&T engage in tit-for-tat price wars, dueling promotions and the return of popular features such as unlimited plans.

Xfinity Mobile is created to support the core cable business. If you live in a rural area, there's a good chance that Verizon towers are your only option to get good service, so it's a boon that Comcast talked Verizon into a partnership for Xfinity Mobile.

Customers can also mix and match plans across lines, Tech Crunch reported, so parents can keep unlimited plans and restrict the kids' data. It's $45 a month for those who already subscribe Comcast's premier "double" or "triple" play packages. It's a way for existing Comcast customers to possibly lower what they pay for cellular data by promising not to cut the cord.

Comcast is waiving typical "access fees" of $20 per line that most carriers charge for enabling voice and text service; the waiver will cover up to five lines. AT&T lets its wireless customers stream unlimited amounts of video from the service without counting against data caps. Alternatively, customers can opt to pay $12 per gigabyte each month. Verizon's threshold is higher, at 22 gigabytes, and reduced speeds apply only when there is network congestion.

"I'm going to stop there and say stay tuned", said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, issuing a typical company response during Comcast's fourth-quarter earnings call. It's offering iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and one budget model from LG. That might not work for everyone who need to adjust the exact day they pay from month-to-month, due to fluctuating access to funds.

Xfinity Mobile customers can switch between the unlimited plan and "by the gig" plan whenever they want, with no penalties.

Comcast's big trick in this whole thing is to try and use its existing Wi-Fi network to reduce the load on Verizon's cell network. The company is also offering customer service via text message, meaning customers will be able to text customer support directly from the phone's native text app and won't have to do it from inside Comcast's customer service app.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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