Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice
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