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