First, a little history. Back in 2012 the FCC, or better known as the U.S. government’s watchdog group for all over-air communications approved a $3.9B deal (courtesy CNET’s @maggie_reardon) that allowed Verizon to buy more wireless spectrum from cable companies. This deal would allow Verizon to secure more spectrum thus more coverage for its network, the largest in the country. However, the deal would also include an MVNO option for the participating cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House Networks) essentially opening the door for cable to invade the wireless market. Specifically this MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) option allows Comcast to leverage the Verizon cellular network and re-market/re-sell services. Comcast “activated” their MVNO option with Verizon last year and Charter (through Time Warner acquisition) followed suit late last year.
The largest cable operator and wireless operator complimenting each other.
Fast forward to April 6th, 2017 and the announcement by Comcast of a framework for their Xfinity Mobile service.
There is not a formal release date. However, according to Dave Watson (CEO Comcast Cable) Comcast has been working behind the scenes conducting limited employee trials with plans to expand the employee sample size in the near future, and then finally a customer release. And I do mean customer release.
Xfinity Mobile will only be available to those that are setup with Xfinity internet service. This is not your everyday/everywhere value proposition. Comcast is being very deliberate in what they are doing. During the Xfinity Mobile investor call Watson highlighted three goals for their service which will be led by Greg Butts (President, Xfinity Mobile).
Customer Loyalty, Customer Growth, and Profitability
Xfinity Mobile looks to leverage the largest WiFi access point network, the largest 4G LTE network (via MVNO option), and most importantly their existing customer relationships to compete for wireless share in their existing footprint. That footprint is significant with 29 million existing customers having access to an estimated 130 million mobile lines. But don’t look for Xfinity Mobile in a small to medium sized town near you, especially in the mountain states and west coast where Comcast has a limited WiFi access point footprint. WiFi access point networks will only work successfully with a voice service in areas where there is an infrastructure that can limit call/service drops. This means densely populated areas where WiFi repeaters can be virtually everywhere (home gateways, cable nodes, cell towers, buildings, etc…). Terms of the MVNO agreement may help Comcast with this issue but it really doesn’t make sense (or cents) for Xfinity Mobile to try and battle with entrenched competition for wireless everywhere. Their strategy is to up-sell wireless in a bundle package to existing customers.
What’s up with the price? What do Xfinity customers get?
So kudos goes to Xfinity Mobile for offering a simple on-boarding model. Customers automatically get 5 lines (no line fees). There are two plans with unlimited talk and text. The only differences are in the two data plans, where you can choose unlimited or pay by Gig. The unlimited plans are either $45 or $65 depending on your existing customer status. The lower price goes to the customer with the “best X1 package (aka most expensive probably)” according to Butts. The 2nd data plan charges $12 per Gb. Customers can also mix and match the data plans per line based on their consumption needs. There will be a speed degradation after 20 Gbs. These plans are pretty competitive with the other wireless carriers (see Jeff Dunn’s BI’s summary). I personally use T-Mobile across two lines and pay $10 per Gb but usually only use half of my data so a pay per Gb option would be great for me. Unfortunately, Xfinity internet isn’t available in my area. Xfinity Mobile will also include 24-7 text messaging customer support which looks promising.
Xfinity will be undoubtedly blasting their eligible customers with marketing of their Xfinity Mobility service once launched. At first glance, this service will provide significant savings to premium X1 customers enabling retention of video/data customers for Comcast. However, it’s too early to tell what will incentivize lower tier customers considering a switch to AT&T Fiber, Google Fiber, Satellite, etc… to give up on their existing carriers in favor of Xfinity Mobile. Stay tuned for more details to come.