Economy First Look

Comcast unveils mobile phone service as customers turn away from cable

Comcast announced Thursday it would offer a mobile service to its customers in an attempt to capture users who stream entertainment and news on the go. 

Comcast introduced Xfinity Mobile on Thursday. The plan will allow internet and cable customers to add mobile service to their plans at low prices.
Jeff Fusco/Comcast/AP
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Comcast customers can now stream video anytime, anywhere, if they sign up for mobile service through the internet and cable provider.

Dubbed Xfinity Mobile, the venture marks Comcast’s first foray into cellphone service, a market already crowded with established providers fighting for customers. The move, which the cable giant announced Thursday, comes as more customers opt out of traditional cable packages in favor of streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, and increasingly use mobile devices on the go rather than TVs to get their daily news and entertainment fix.

"We’re doing mobile differently by bringing our customers the best networks and a product designed to save them money in an increasingly data-driven world," Greg Butz, president of Comcast Mobile, said in a statement. "Mobility is more important than ever to consumers, so we’ve designed Xfinity Mobile the way mobile should be – a simple solution for internet and entertainment in and out of the home."

The service is expected to launch after undergoing additional testing among Comcast employees.

Comcast isn’t the first company to consider such a shift. Disney has begun to consider future efforts in streaming, and Twitter has capitalized by streaming high profile events such as the presidential debates or football games, drawing viewers to its service rather than cable channels.

The company is entering the game at a time when customers have already won in a sense. Price wars have forced networks to drop overage fees for data used while streaming, and Comcast’s low-billed plans will provide further competition to carriers such as Verizon and AT&T.

But the perk of Comcast’s plan is likely its low price. The Philadelphia-based company will offer service that unlimited data starting at $45 a month for existing TV and internet customers and $65 for internet customers. To cover customers, Comcast plans to partner with Verizon’s 4G LTE network along with more than 15 million Xfinity wifi hotspots to provide the coverage.

That combination is what could allow the Company to lure customers in with discounted plans. Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s two largest mobile networks, have mobile packages starting around $80 and $90 monthly, while smaller networks Sprint and T-Mobile offer services around $50 and $70.

But that also requires Comcast to move its customers from wifi to data seamlessly, as they travel between different coverage areas, a task which could prove challenging and bring service interruptions.

“Wi-Fi today is not what it should be,” Comcast Cable president Dave Watson said, according to The Verge. “We have room to improve. But I would say this: one of the things that I talked about today is, just like X1, just like other product areas, our aspirations are to constantly improve the Wi-Fi experience.”