Comcast unveils wireless service, Xfinity Mobile, for $45-$65 a month
Xfinity Mobile is trying to personalize wireless.
The iPhone will be part of the Xfinity Mobile offering.
At launch, that phone will be an iPhone, or phones from Samsung or LG.
By way of comparison, Google’s Project Fi, part of an MVNO partnership Google has with Sprint and T-Mobile, is limited to Google’s own Pixel, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X devices.
Xfinity Mobile customers will have two main pricing choice, an unlimited data plan or a pay-by-the gig plan.
The unlimited price will either be $45 or $65 per month per line up to five lines, with the lower monthly price reserved for customers on Comcast’s “best” X1 video packages, typically those that start around $150 per month. Unlimited talk and text is included and there’s no per line access fee.
The pay-by-the-gig monthly option costs $12 per GB of cellular data across all lines on an account, and you only pay for what you use. That makes it a potentially attractive offering for the 70% of customers that Nielsen reports consume less than 5GB per month.
Comcast’s prices are competitive but not always the cheapest in every circumstance. Project Fi costs $10 a gig. And when it comes to unlimited, Verizon itself has a data plan of $180 for four lines. But in Verizon’s case you’d pay $80 for just one line or $70 per line for two. Under Xfinity’s unlimited plan each line, including the first, will cost $45 (or $65).
Folks with more than one line have the option to mix and match plans. So you might put your kids on the unlimited plan while keeping you and your spouse on the metered gig plans. Comcast says you can switch back and forth without paying a penalty so that if in a given month you’re using more data than you expected under the by-the-gig plan, you can switch to unlimited. You’d have the option to convert back the following month.
Payments are automatically billed through your credit card. As part of the Xfinity Mobile offering, you can take stream up to 200 live TV channels on the go and control your home devices from the road.
Comcast will throttle or reduce speeds after 20GB of cellular usage.
Tech analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics says Xfinity Mobile's failure to offer a consumer incentive for switching---Comcast is not paying off rival's early termination fees or assuming remaining device payments--will significantly limit its growth potential. "Comcast clearly sees Xfinity Mobile as a profit maker not as a market disrupter," he says.
So what is Comcast’s motivation to become a wireless carrier? “On a standalone basis, we will make a small amount of money in the wireless business,” Schwartz says. “But really for us, it’s about the more services you can sell somebody the more they’re going to be comfortable with your relationship. I don’t think we’re looking to be measured by the same metrics as a wireless carrier necessarily. For us it’s about driving benefit back to our core business and not losing money on the wireless side…And somebody who is getting a phone at $12 a month or $24 a month because they use one or two gigs, the stickiness of that approach is huge. You’re going to become a loyal customer.”
Of course, there may be other ambitions for Comcast. One of its traditional competitors in the entertainment space, DirecTV, is now part of AT&T, obviously one of the major players in wireless. Comcast has also been mentioned at times as a potential suitor for T-Mobile or Sprint.
"I view Xfinity Mobile as Comcast's experimental wireless endeavor with training wheels," Entner says. "They are trying to learn and then decide what to do - everything from building their own network to buying T-Mobile or even Sprint."
Among the hurdles Comcast may face with the Xfinity Mobile launch is overcoming the generally poor reputation cable companies have for service and support.
Comcast Mobile president Greg Butz acknowledges the issue. “That intense focus in our core cable business –we know we need to get better and improve the customer service and customer experience. We know the issue, I think we’re on it.”
Among the ways, the Xfinity offering includes 24-by-7 customer support through text messaging, and through a dedicated call center support team. And the company is adding a personal touch, shipping you a phone and identifying you by name.
Email: [email protected]; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter
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