Cable Wi-Fi

Verizon Tips Comcast Wireless Service

It looks like Comcast is on the verge of offering a wireless service that will include cellular connectivity.

Although Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) told Light Reading it is not commenting on the issue, its potential partner, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), let the cat out of the bag this week.

During Verizon's third-quarter earnings call with analysts Tuesday, company CFO Fran Shammo was asked specifically about the agreements that the telco has with several leading US MSOs. Shammo responded: "We have an existing MVNO agreement and we were informed that they are going to execute on that agreement and the agreement is the agreement."

Shammo did not mention any cable company by name, but all signs point to Comcast.

In 2012, Verizon bought the rights to some AWS-1 spectrum from SpectrumCo, in which Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks were partners. Verizon paid $3.9 billion and signed MVNO agreements with all the MSOs. (See FCC OKs Verizon's Spectrum Buys)

The latter two cable operators are in the process of being bought by Charter Communications Inc. Charter is known to have wireless ambitions, and presumably it will inherit the TWC/BHN MVNO agreement. But it is Comcast that has been reported to have been negotiating with Verizon on this very subject in recent months (see Comcast's Wireless Ambitions Face Hurdle ). (See Charter Plans Business Services, Wireless Push )

Comcast, in tandem with several other cable operators, previously offered a cellular service, called Pivot, based on an MVNO contract with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). Although Comcast shut down Pivot in 2008, the agreement with Sprint is still in force.

No major US cable operator is likely to offer a straight MVNO service ever again. But dual-mode services that include both cellular and WiFi connectivity are becoming popular, and Comcast now has more than 11 million hotspots deployed.

Sprint, T-Mobile US Inc. and now AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) are finding success with a WiFi-first service. Cable companies have been discussing the potential allure of a WiFi-first service of their own for years now.

If Comcast goes ahead with these plans, it could have its new wireless service available by the spring of 2016 at the earliest.

— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading

KBode 10/28/2015 | 5:52:51 PM
Re: Getting crowded.. I'll be very interested to see how this shakes out.

Comcast may be adding wireless at a time when it faces unprecedented video and fixed-line voice departures. Should prove to be an interesting juggling act.
kq4ym 10/28/2015 | 11:42:53 AM
Re: Getting crowded.. Good insight there on controlling the customer data. Getting all that might not intially get money in the pocket, but over time will be very valuable to use internally or farm it out to others.
inkstainedwretch 10/22/2015 | 1:39:45 PM
Re: Getting crowded.. No stats, sorry.  LGI CTO Balan Nair at Cable Tec Expo last week said LGI is going to expand its wireless reach in Europe, and part of the reason is that churn is significantly  lower with quad play customers. Which is interesting, given the lower churn stats with triple play customers. Comcast and LGI don't copy each other on everything, but they have been seeing eye to eye on a lot of things lately. -- Brian Santo



KBode 10/22/2015 | 12:29:24 PM
Re: Getting crowded.. "Liberty Global reports that the quad play is even stickier than the triple play."

Can you offer more stats? I'd generally seen data suggesting that most users were NOT interested in the full quad play from one company? Especially as wireless phone makes digital voice a little redundant and pricey?
inkstainedwretch 10/22/2015 | 12:07:33 PM
Re: Getting crowded.. The business is increasingly becoming about two things: control of the customer and control of the customer data. Liberty Global reports that the quad play is even stickier than the triple play. It's another advertising medium. Comcast is very, very excited about remote control technologies (for entertainment center and home automation), and smartphones are very handy remote control devices. Having data on how customers behave with their smartphones will be of undeniable value now that Comcast intends to start selling consumer behavioral data. This may not contribute big bucks directly to the bottom line, but there are so very many ancillary benefits it is folly to NOT pursue the idea, even if they ultimately decide to not commercialize such a service. -- Brian Santo
KBode 10/22/2015 | 10:59:56 AM
Getting crowded.. The "lean heavily on Wi-Fi" MVNO field feels like it's getting crowded in the age of Google Fi. I wonder what Comcast can do to differentiate their product and convince double and triple play customers that they really need the quadruple play?
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