Comcast Considers Offering Wireless Mobile Phone Plan

brian roberts

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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Comcast is considering launching a wireless mobile phone service, according to The Information, putting the TV and broadband provider in competition with Verizon, AT&T and the like:

Comcast officials recently told people outside the company that it was considering a mobile phone service, which would rely on a combination of Wi-Fi and leased capacity on cellular networks.

The Information notes that Comcast would be able to bundle TV, Internet, landline phone, and mobile wireless service into a single, attractive package for many customers:
Such scenarios already are playing out in various parts of Europe, where cable companies have instigated wireless-plan price wars.

The plan is only in the concept stage right now. But Comcast has the ability to do it because three years ago it made a deal with Verizon for the right to buy access to Verizon's network. The deal gives Comcast space on Verizon's network to handle traffic that isn't carried by their WiFi networks, The Information says.

That's a fascinating tidbit because, as Business Insider has noted before, the prevalence of free WiFi is becoming an existential (if poorly quantified) threat to cable TV and broadband internet providers. By offering a wifi/wireless calling plan, Comcast could shore up its cable TV and broadband internet services by acquiring the medium that it is losing customers to.

More and more customers are "cord-cutters," meaning that they don't want to pay for cable TV. But a small number are also cutting the cord for internet service, too, because they can live on WiFi and Internet provided by their work, their mobile wireless provider, college campuses and local businesses. Time Warner Cable unexpectedly lost 24,000 broadband data subscribers in Q3 last year in part for this reason. (It added back 39,000 web subscribers in Q4, but lost 67,000 overall from all its TV/ and Web businesses.)

Separately, Comcast is still hoping to merge with Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal.