Cable company Comcast just introduced its version of re-branded Verizon wireless service-Xfinity Mobile-which will be sold to existing Comcast customers for $12/GB of data or up to $65/line for an "unlimited" plan.
Importantly, Comcast Xfinity Mobile is only available to the cable company's existing subscribers.
- The company will offer unlimited data for $65 per line on up to five lines or $45 per line for customers that subscribe to its cable-TV, internet and fixed-line services. Customers will also be purchase plans by the gig, at $12 per gigabyte of data across all lines per month. It'll have the last two years of iPhone models, it'll have Samsung's S7 and S8 models, and it'll offer LG's X Power, a midrange phone with a large battery in it.
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.
The new offering is aimed at helping Comcast compete outside the home as Americans' Internet usage increasingly shifts to mobile devices. The idea is that whenever an Xfinity Mobile subscriber is within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, their phone will switch off the LTE network and onto Wi-Fi.
Comcast is hoping the attractive pricing for its wireless services will help reduce cable-cutting - the dread practice of consumers getting rid of their cable service and relying on over-the-air and streaming video.
Even at limited scale, Comcast expects Xfinity Mobile to deliver "positive economics", Watson said. The service will be available to customers starting in the second quarter, Comcast said.
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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.
The best deals will go to Comcast's highest-tier customers.
Comcast is not taking a Wi-Fi-first approach, but is pairing 4G LTE via Verizon's network along with Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots, to which the service will automatically connect. Other wireless operators have been rolling out unlimited data plans, so Comcast is entering an already crowded field. Customers who don't want unlimited plans pay $12/GB.
The majority of Comcast customers will be paying $65/mo per line, but that decreases to $45/mo per line if you're on the X1 plan for television service. Out of the gate you won't be able to bring your own phone to the service. In other words, they are a prepaid network that uses another carrier's network for service.
Comcast did not give a specific date for when Xfinity Mobile will be available to consumers.
It did not state its investment in Xfinity Mobile or the expected return.
Xfinity Mobile will surely stir up this ultra-competitive industry, and it's not that hard to imagine Comcast as a telecom leader someday. Comcast says roughly 25% of its X1 user base would be eligible for this today.