Comcast Names Leader For New Mobile Business Unit, Fueling Speculation About Wireless Play

Cable giant Comcast may be throwing its hat into the mobile wireless ring.

Greg Butz, a veteran Comcast Cable sales and marketing executive, was appointed last week to lead the brand-new Comcast Mobile business unit, whose formation could indicate that Comcast is placing its bets on full mobility solutions for its end customers.

Butz’s appointment also is fueling speculation that Comcast plans to branch out from the cable and internet business with which he is familiar and become a mobile carrier.

Adding a wireless and mobility practice would be a big undertaking for Comcast but a huge benefit for the company’s partners, according to an executive at one Comcast partner who requested anonymity.

Sponsored post

[Related: Comcast, Charter And TWC Vow To Improve Customer Service For Consumers, Business Users]

"I think that [mobility is] really a big missing piece for Comcast," the executive said.

Rob Chamberlin, co-founder and executive vice president of Berkeley, Calif.-based DataXoom, a mobility-focused solution provider, said a potential Comcast wireless service could be quite disruptive to the incumbent carriers. Chamberlin believes that Comcast would leverage its large Wi-Fi network for any potential wireless offering, but that the initial offering could be geared toward consumers, rather than business users.

’I don't see many businesses other than SMBs considering a Wi-Fi-first mobile carrier, so I suspect that they [would] be primarily focused on the consumer market initially,’ he said. ’Because of this, I don't necessarily believe they [would] launch with a channel focus.’

Philadelphia-based Comcast declined CRN’s request for comment regarding a potential move into the wireless market. Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit, however, stated in an October 2015 earnings call that any wireless plans being considered were in ’test and learn’ mode.

Comcast is a very ambitious company, said an executive at another Comcast partner who asked to not be named.

"They have big ideas, and when the Time Warner Cable deal fell through, they probably wanted to focus their sights on other things. There’s no question they have big plans to move way beyond cable," the executive said.

’More and more, companies want a redundant network, and they can use a mobile network for that,’ the executive said. ’This space is going to continue to grow really fast.’

While some industry speculation suggests that Comcast could build out its own homegrown wireless service, this partner executive said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a large acquisition take place.

’I believe they would have to get into that market through an acquisition because it’s a monumental task. They wouldn’t be able to build it affordably or fast enough … could Sprint or T-Mobile maybe be up for grabs?’ the executive said.

Comcast reportedly will join Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile as a bidder this year at an upcoming airwave spectrum auction that the Federal Communications Commission will put on in August for wireless carriers, according to an Ars Technica report. Comcast reportedly submitted a down payment and application under the name ’CC Wireless Investment, LLC.’

In October 2015, Comcast notified Basking Ridge, N.J.-based competitor Verizon that it has plans to take advantage of an existing mobile virtual network operator ( MVNO) agreement to use Verizon’s spectrum for a new wireless service. Comcast also has a similar deal in place with Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint.