Comcast Set To Launch Wireless Service In 2017, Leasing Airwaves From Verizon

Following months of speculation, Comcast officially revealed plans to launch a wireless service by mid-2017. The addition to the cable giant's portfolio is being positioned as a way to help Comcast compete with fellow carriers, retain more customers and tap into new revenue streams.

Adding a wireless practice will offer the cable provider a large payoff in terms of reduced customer churn and more stickiness, especially as customers downgrade their cable plans, according to Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Philadelphia-based Comcast. Roberts unveiled the availability of the wireless service during the Goldman Sachs Annual Communacopia conference Tuesday morning.

"Clearly, our goal is to take market share. The [Comcast Mobile Business] team is getting ready to launch by the middle of next year," Roberts said during the conference.

[Related: Comcast Names Leader For New Mobile Business Unit, Fueling Speculation About Wireless Play]

Sponsored post

Roberts said that Comcast's current customers, as well as prospective customers within its service areas, would be able to sign up for larger Comcast services bundles with the availability of the wireless service added to current TV, broadband and phone services.

Comcast declined CRN's request for clarification regarding whether the wireless service would be available to business customers, and whether the service would be available through the channel.

ACE Consulting Group, a Comcast partner based in Fairhaven, Mass. is positioned firmly within the cable provider's footprint. ACE is looking forward to having a chance to resell Comcast's wireless service, if the provider makes the service available to business customers, according to Andrew Gregoire, CEO of ACE Consulting Group.

"It's sticky, and it’s another service to complement the rest of the solution – a nice-add on," Gregoire said.

The soon-to-be-available wireless service has been in the works for several years, according to the Philadelphia-based provider. During a 2015 earnings call, Comcast said it was in "test and learn mode" with wireless.

In June, Comcast appointed Greg Butz, a veteran Comcast Cable sales and marketing executive, to lead its new Comcast Mobile business unit. Butz's appointment led to further speculation that the cable provider was starting up a wireless and mobility practice.

Comcast's wireless service will rely on leased airwaves from competitor Verizon Wireless, as well as Comcast’s extensive network of 15 million Wi-Fi hot spots across the U.S., Comcast said.

Comcast notified Verizon that it would take advantage of an existing mobile virtual network operator ( MVNO) agreement to use Verizon’s spectrum for wireless service last October. The cable provider also has a similar MVNO deal in place with Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint.

Comcast's decision to rely on Verizon's network will be beneficial to the carrier, and its customers, ACE's Gregoire said. The deal allows Comcast to take advantage of Verizon's reliable, nationwide network, while saving money on the infrastructure side, such as cell tower and network build-out, he said.

"Verizon is already investing heavily into their own network, so why should Comcast go out and reinvent the wheel in this scenario?" Gregoire added.