May 24, 2022
With pay-TV losses likely to continue, wireless has rapidly emerged as the primary pairing with home broadband at Comcast.
"You're really seeing it become the lead bundle, having the connectivity bundle with broadband together with wireless," Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh said Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference.
Figure 1: Comcast ended the first quarter of 2022 with 4.29 million mobile lines.
"The focus on wireless is as high as it's ever been," Cavanagh said, noting that Xfinity Mobile has become "deeply embedded" into Comcast's cable operations.
Comcast added 318,000 mobile lines in Q1 2022, ending the period with 4.29 million.
"We think [mobile] is going to be a primary part of our offering and advantage in the marketplace for quite some time," Cavanagh said. "With 4 million lines and about 2 million households [subscribing to Xfinity mobile] of 34 million total customer relationships, we've got a way to go."
Offloading mobile traffic
Xfinity Mobile operates on an MVNO deal with Verizon, backed by Comcast's network of 25 million Wi-Fi hotspots. The cable operator estimates that Wi-Fi offloads about 80% of the mobile service's data.
Comcast is starting to push ahead with other ways to offload mobile traffic using spectrum in the 600MHz band that covers about 80% of its footprint, along with the CBRS mid-band spectrum. The general idea with the use of 600MHz and CBRS spectrum is to provide options and focus its deployment to high-use areas.
Comcast started to turn up some of that spectrum in the first quarter of the year amid a plan to launch employee trials in June.
"Think of it as another lever that we have in our wireless strategy, which is capital light and built upon the [Verizon] MVNO," Cavanagh said. "We'll have the ability to look at where our crunch points are in the future, to the point it makes economic sense."
Streaming JV addresses reach and scale
Cavanagh also discussed the strategy and reasoning behind Comcast's new national streaming joint venture with Charter Communications, an operator with a presence in key media markets such as New York and Los Angeles. He said much of it has to do with scale.
"There's lots of R&D that we fund in video," Cavanagh explained, noting that R&D in the platform might have been "curtailed a bit" without a partner. Charter has committed to invest $900 million over multiple years.
"With the dynamics of what's going on with cord-cutting, it really makes sense for us to share the investment in video and make our products, which are geographically confined to our footprint, more ubiquitous and known in the minds of customers," Cavanagh said. "This brings a partner in to help fund all that."
He reasoned that national coverage will also give the video streaming and aggregation platform more scale with retailers, advertisers and third-party streaming services.
Cavanagh also reiterated that the JV is open to adding other operators. A handful of other cable operators – Cox Communications, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Videotron – currently license Comcast's X1/Flex technology but aren't part of the streaming JV.
Where does cable go from here? Comcast not seeing 'material' churn from fixed wireless, but not taking it lightly Comcast in no rush to deploy CBRS spectrum Charter and Comcast strike national streaming joint venture Marcien Jenckes to helm the Comcast-Charter streaming JV — Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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