The largest cable TV provider in the US plans to launch a wireless network. Today Comcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed the rumors that the company would start offering wireless services in 2017.
Comcast’s wireless offering will actually look a lot like Google’s Project Fi: phones that use Comcast’s network will connect to WiFi hotspots whenever possible, only using cellular data when WiFi isn’t available.
A key difference is that Comcast already has a network about 15 million WiFi hotspots that phones can tap into.
When WiFi isn’t an option, phones will connect to Verizon’s network. Rather than build its own cellular towers, Comcast will operate as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) by piggybacking on Verizon’s infrastructure.
Interestingly, this means that Comcast will be using Verizon’s network to compete more directly with Verizon… one of the nation’s largest cellular providers, which has also moved into the pay TV space in recent years.
Wondering why Verizon would let Comcast use its network? As PC World notes, Comcast and a group of other cable companies sold a portion of wireless spectrum to Verizon 5 years ago, and in the process they received an option to resell Verizon service.
While this could all be good news for Comcast, it remains to be seen what it means for potential customers. While the combination of Verizon’s network and Comcast’s WiFi hotspots should lead to reliable coverage, we don’t know how much the service will cost or if there are any advantages over using a competing service.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast offers discounts to customers who also sign up for TV and home internet bundles, but I wonder if there’s any reason for people who aren’t already Comcast subscribers to consider the new service once it becomes available.