In the past, the big gap in service was that calls couldn't be handed off from stationary sites to vehicles moving at high speed, said Menezes. "Now, if the Comcast handset can seamlessly roam onto Verizon coverage in those areas, the gap is gone."
Much will also depend on the pricing of such services from Comcast, Menezes said. His expectation is that the company will price the offering as part of a Comcast bundle. "If they're smart, they'll also provide more flexible plan structures than the big four cellular carriers do, such as the 'pay per use' pricing from [Google's] Project Fi ,where you only get charged for the data you actually use during a billing cycle."
Another analyst, Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, said that while many details of Comcast's upcoming services are still to be disclosed, if the company "is to make this a compelling offer, especially given their lack of history in wireless, they're going to have to offer some steep discounts in their bundles." Similar efforts by other companies in the past have failed to catch on, he said.
On the other hand, Comcast has advantages over startups that are getting into the wireless space, including name recognition and lots of existing customer relationships that it can leverage to sell service. "But there are also downsides to being a big cable company in terms of its spotty reputation for customer service, which could work against it," said Dawson. "So much depends, ultimately, on the details of what's announced."
The Comcast moves into wireless services follow a big move by AT&T in July 2015, when the company acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion and began making efforts to get customers from both companies to bundle their services. AT&T's move to offer enhanced deals to bring over DirecTV customers to grow its own subscriber base was part of the company's vision for making the acquisition in the first place. The merger turned AT&T into a bigger player with its hands in more markets and a ready pool of new prospects to bring into its business coffers.