Carrier WiFi

Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice

BOSTON -- The Cable Show -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) hopes to give its residential home service a shot in the arm with a set of new mobility features, including one that lets customers place free outbound phone calls using Wi-Fi-connected devices, including smartphones, tablets and PCs.

The overarching addition, called Voice2Go, runs off the company's redesigned Xfinity Connect Mobile app (formerly called Xfinity Mobile), which recently added free text-messaging capabilities. (See Comcast Launches Free Text Messaging.)

Giving a nod to an approach popularized by Google Voice, Comcast's app also supports an Advanced Call Forwarding feature that automatically intercepts phone calls to a customer's home and relays them to as many as four additional devices, including those running iOS or Android. The app also lets Xfinity Voice subs create up to four "personal" phone numbers that can be assigned to family members.

Comcast EVP and GM of Data and Communications Services Cathy Avgiris demonstrated Voice2Go here at the show:

Voice2Go is entering the picture as Comcast looks to expand its own buildout of Wi-Fi hotspots (it's deployed more than 4,000 of them in the Philadelphia area and is in the process of deploying Wi-Fi gear in additional markets), and take advantage of new Wi-Fi roaming deals with Cox Communications Inc. , Bright House Networks , Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC). (See Cable Goes Big With Wi-Fi Roaming and Cable's Still Finding Its Way on Wi-Fi.)

The voice and text features would appear to pose a threat to mobile carriers, but the operator stressed that the new features aim to complement, rather than replace, cellular services. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), after all, is one of Comcast's partners. (See Comcast/Verizon Combo Steers Clear of FiOS.)

What Comcast will try to do is use the new app to rejuvenate its home phone service, which has shown signs of slowing in recent quarters and could be exposed to a form of "cord-cutting" in which consumers chuck their wired home phone service and go solely with a mobile offering. Among recent examples, Comcast added 146,000 in the fourth quarter of 2011, versus 257,000 additions in the year-ago period. For all of 2011, Comcast added 732,000 digital voice customers, compared to 988,000 in 2010.

"Voice2Go is another way in which we believe we're reinventing home phone and taking communications beyond just the ability to make phone calls with new features that are going to be inclusive with your Xfinity Voice product," Avgiris explained here at the show.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

falsecut 12/5/2012 | 5:31:58 PM
re: Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice

So exactly when does this new feature get released?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:31:57 PM
re: Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice

They skated around that question a bit, not providing an exact date, other than to say to expect it in a few weeks.  JB


billsblots 12/5/2012 | 5:31:45 PM
re: Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice

Largely unrelated, but not really, Comcast keeps sending flyers and advertising the XFinity TV app, the ability to set DVRs remotely via smartphone or ipad, even watch shows, and other nifty stuff.  no one at my local Comcast office knows much about it, other than look up something and tell me it's not available in our area.  it requires one of the Motorola DVRs, something they don't carry in my county, but may in the neighboring Richmond service area.  Their DVRs are largely junk, their hard drives have been written and rewritten so much that shows sometime skip 8 or 12 minutes ahead if you fast forward through a commercial.  I have exchanged mine on several occasions and the next is as bad as the previous.

Just this, Comcast seems to announce major initiatives before they're ready or will be available in much of their market in the near future.

Telco 12/5/2012 | 5:31:43 PM
re: Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice

The Cable Show brings out two Comcast Wi-Fi announcements and both are very curious, both apply to cable and telcos.  Each tier one provider has a similar product already underway or pending launch.  There is the Streaming to Wireless in the home, to registered devices with Comcast Apps required, to support log-in to the Arris and BelAire "Dorry's".  This builds on your data caps as Portal content is now prioritized the same as Non-Portal partners, thanks to the XBox/NetFlix issue. 

The second is city HotSpots are seperate and the DNS service with LDAP integration will support the Block of Cable Providers public Wi-Fi.  I do not know for sure if this will apply to my rate caps but when using the Comcast Only Wi-Fi Spot to off-load my AT&T wireless throttling (I am a 2nd class subscriber with an unlimited plan). I noticed a very strange nuance.  In early January AT&T Wireless announced Wi-Fi off-load in the train stations - which was fantastic.  Then 3 days after Comcast did, the SSID for AT&T was no-longer found. 

I was only concerned because as a subscriber of Comcast, I think the usage should apply to my Comcast data cap.  With AT&T, I thought for sure they would stay at the stations because they want to fill their subscribers data plan cap (although I am not yet applicable).

It is very important to get the users data caps filled so the service providers can recover some of these pro-active marketing initiatives.  It is just as important to implement the changes for earning revenue from the Portal Partner and non-partner content/app providers.  Their connections to the access netowrks are in the process of being improved with new rate elements in the next few years.

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