Comcast is officially getting into the mobile carrier business with its new Xfinity Mobile calling plans and services, which will be provided using Verizon's nationwide 4G LTE cellular network.
More than six months after Comcast detailed its mobile phone plans in September 2016, the company announced on April 6 that it will offer calling plans starting at $45 a month with unlimited data for customers of the company's best X1 cable packages, or for $65 a month with unlimited data for Comcast customers who only subscribe to its cable internet services.
Customers who don't want the unlimited data option would pay $12 per GB of data they use each month, with no per-line access fees. Existing Xfinity internet customers who sign up for the new service will receive up to five phone lines with unlimited talk and text per account, while purchasing shared data each month at $12 per GB. Customers will also be able to switch back and forth between unlimited service and buying extra data as needed each month to control their costs, according to Comcast.
Comcast is only offering its Xfinity Mobile services to new and existing Comcast cable and internet customers. While the mobile plans for customers will operate over Verizon's 4G network, users will also be served by Comcast's network of 16 million nationwide WiFi hotspots to place calls, send text messages, and use the internet and apps.
"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."
Xfinity internet customers will be signed into their other Xfinity apps when using the Xfinity Mobile services, according to the company, making their user experience seamless. Users will have access to 24/7 tech support via text messaging and will be able to pay their bills with autopay.
Customers will be able to use the most popular smartphones with the new services, including Apple iPhones and handsets from Samsung and LG.
Xfinity Mobile services will be offered first in Comcast markets including Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston, with additional rollouts in the future. Under the unlimited plans, data speeds will be reduced when users consume more than 20GB of data in a month.
Comcast did not respond to several email inquiries from eWEEK seeking additional comments about the new services.
Several IT analysts had varying opinions about the Xfinity Mobile offering.
"The value of this service to Comcast for now looks to be its stickiness; that is, an incentive for current customers to stay with Comcast for their video and internet rather than migrate to new competitors in that space such as AT&T or, if you're talking about over the top video, T-Mobile,"
Bill Menezes, a mobile analyst with Gartner, told eWEEK.
Another strength in the new offering is its "pay by the gig" options, he added. "This could have a lot of appeal to families or SMB users who already subscribe to Comcast and don't typically run up big cellular data usage."
The ability to switch back and forth between unlimited service and data by the gig each month is a big differentiator for Comcast, compared with competitors. "Nobody else lets you do this," said Menezes. "It will be great to see how quickly other carriers match this feature."
On the other hand, mobile phone users who do a lot of international roaming may not get what they need because Comcast so far hasn't discussed whether this will be possible, he said. Also potentially hindering subscribers is that customers will have to buy a new phone from Comcast and can't port their existing devices to use the service, said Menezes.