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Comcast revs up mobile play for SMBs

Following initial delays caused by the pandemic and a more recent period of soft-selling that wasn't heavily promoted or marketed, Comcast Business says it is now ready to go big with a mobile service that is tailored for small and midsized businesses (SMBs).

"Given the pandemic and given how voice communications is critical in the SMB space, we just needed to make sure we got it right," Tom Pierce, VP of product strategy at Comcast Business, explained. "We didn't want to take any missteps and rush this."

Out of the chute, Comcast Business Mobile, much like its Xfinity Mobile counterpart on the residential side, offers both unlimited data and By the Gig options, and requires customers to get broadband service from Comcast. Comcast Businesses' relatively new mobile offering for SMBs also stems from Comcast's revised MVNO agreement with Verizon.

Comcast Business Mobile's By the Gig provides three shared data options: 1 Gigabyte per month for $15, 3GB for $30, and 10GB for $60.

The unlimited plan supports graduated pricing, starting at $45 per month for one line, $30 per line per month with four lines, and $24 per month per line with ten lines. Per the fine print, after 20 GB of data usage, speeds are reduced to a max of 1.5 Mbit/s down and 750 Kbit/s upstream.

Comcast Business Mobile's current pricing plans are capped at ten lines per customer account, but work is underway to extend that to 20 lines per customer account starting in Q1 2022. 
(Source: Comcast Business)
Comcast Business Mobile's current pricing plans are capped at ten lines per customer account, but work is underway to extend that to 20 lines per customer account starting in Q1 2022.
(Source: Comcast Business)

Comcast Business Mobile allows customers to mix and match their plans on a line-by-line basis. Pierce said the majority of business customers taking the operator's new mobile option are purchasing unlimited packages, a situation that became more acute after Comcast Business introduced graduated pricing in April.

20-line option on tap for Q1 2022

The ten-line cap for Comcast Business Mobile will be temporary. Pierce said Comcast Business is working on new offerings that will allow SMBs to add up to 20 mobile lines starting as early as Q1 2022. Pierce noted that there's "a little blurring" occurring in the mobile market as some SMB owners end up putting lines for their businesses as well as for some family members on their accounts.

In addition to ramping up marketing and having its salespeople promote the new mobile offering more aggressively, Comcast Business is also conducting a mobile services pilot in about a dozen Xfinity retail stores. Pierce expects that trial to end in August and expand to all Xfinity stores.

"This is all setting us up to be in a good position to really start to accelerate the speed at which we get out there," he said. "Today's challenge is all about awareness and consideration."

Though sales of Comcast Business Mobile will be challenged by the long-term mobile contracts SMBs have today with their existing carriers, the unit should see mobile numbers perk up as it starts to ramp up marketing and awareness of the product.

Comcast Business soft-launched the mobile service in Q4 2020, but it has not announced how many mobile lines it has sold to SMBs. Comcast's Xfinity Mobile service, which recently achieved financial break-even status, reported adding 278,000 mobile lines in Q1 2021, ending the period with 3.1 million. According to the latest forecast from MoffettNathanson, Xfinity Mobile's base will rise to 7.89 million lines by 2025.

Mobile also adds another revenue-driver to Comcast Business. Comcast's biz services unit pulled down revenues of $2.16 billion in Q1 2021, up from $2.04 billion in the year-ago quarter.

"Mobile was a missing aspect, and we believe that while their needs are being taken care of from some of these carriers today, we do so much business on the Internet side that there was no reason for us not to take advantage of those relationships, those transactional opportunities," Pierce said.

Charter Communications, which operates Spectrum Mobile under its MVNO agreement with Verizon, confirmed recently that it launched a mobile service tailored for SMBs last October.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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