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Comcast's wireless biz turns the corner

Comcast said Xfinity Mobile reached profitability for the first time in Q1 2021 as the company tacked on a record 278,000 mobile lines and pushed its grand total past 3.1 million lines.

Those subscriber additions helped Comcast's wireless revenues surge 49.7%, to $513 million, in Q1 2021.

"This past quarter [Xfinity Mobile] reached break-even on a standalone basis for the first time," Brian Roberts, Comcast's chairman and CEO, said on Thursday's earnings call.

Xfinity Mobile, launched in May 2017, ended Q1 2021 with about 3.1 million lines.  
(Image source: Comcast)
Xfinity Mobile, launched in May 2017, ended Q1 2021 with about 3.1 million lines.
(Image source: Comcast)

That milestone comes nearly four years after Comcast launched Xfinity Mobile, a service that relies on an MVNO agreement with Verizon along with tie-ins with the cable operator's millions of Wi-Fi hotspots. Comcast bundles Xfinity Mobile with residential broadband service and recently introduced a mobile product tailored for business customers.

A key question now is whether Comcast can keep ARPU elevated and Xfinity Mobile in the black, particularly after the company's recent launch of new, family-focused unlimited plans that drop pricing as customers add more lines.

Comcast, which introduced its new batch of unlimited plans after revising its MVNO deal with Verizon, believes it can.

"We take a very disciplined approach towards packing and improving value," Dave Watson, Comcast Cable's CEO, said. "We feel very good about unlimited as part of the portfolio, and [it] not changing the strategy or materially the results in terms of ARPU in mobile and the impact toward EBITDA."

Mobile, Watson added, "is just a growth engine for us, period."

Comcast also reiterated a plan to deploy CBRS spectrum won at auction on a targeted basis to help it offload MVNO costs.

"That will really prove to be a cost savings if we get it right in dense areas," Roberts said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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