Cable Business Services

Comcast Plays Wireless Card for SMBs

Although it's steadily increasing its pursuit of larger enterprises, Comcast has not exactly stopped trying to lure smaller businesses too. In that vein, the largest US cable operator is now rolling out a new product to help SMBs keep their businesses running in case of a power failure or loss of web connectivity.

The new product, known as Connection Pro, offers an automatic wireless backup Internet connection for SMBs using the MSO's hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks. More specifically, Comcast Business customers can automatically receive a 4G LTE cellular connection if there's a network or Internet disruption. The battery-powered backup connection lasts for up to eight hours, enabling such essential business functions as point-of-sale systems, back-office connections, email and cloud-based applications to continue unimpeded in spite of the outage.

The new wireless backup system works by connecting the business customer to the stronger of two redundant cellular networks supplied by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), respectively. Once the system chooses the stronger cellular network through a pre-populated SIM card, it shuts off the connection to the other wireless network.

"It's fairly straightforward," says Jeff Lewis, vice president of connectivity services for Comcast Business, emphasizing the product's simplicity and reliability. "The idea of backup, especially wireless backup, is very well accepted by customers."

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Claiming that it's the first such product offered by a broadband provider, Comcast is rolling out Connection Pro to its entire SMB customer base, which numbers 1.9 million throughout the nation. The MSO is charging customers $29.99 a month for the add-on product if they have a term agreement.

Lewis has declined to say how many SMB customers Comcast hopes to sign up for the new wireless backup product. But, viewing it as "a pretty robust opportunity," he clearly has high hopes for Connection Pro and is already looking at crafting a similar backup product for larger commercial customers that rely on direct fiber connections. Comcast, which generated more than $6 billion in commercial services revenue last year, still relies on SMBs for the vast bulk of that total.

"It's a pretty high-demand product," Lewis reiterates. "We think this is a differentiator."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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