Comcast Launches Mobile Phone Services Starting at $45 a Month - Page 2

Menezes said he is also wary about the WiFi capabilities of the new service, which may not work well for users who need to make calls in indoor locations where cellular signals may be weak. "My understanding is that Comcast isn't supporting voice over WiFi, so if you're connected to an Xfinity hotspot you'd still need to get a Verizon cellular signal to make a voice call," he said. "You could still make a voice over WiFi call using an over the top app like Apple's FaceTime or Facebook or WhatsApp, I imagine. You just couldn't use the native phone dialer to do a voice call over an Xfinity hotspot."

That scenario is in contrast with the four major national carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon—which all enable this feature in iPhones and most Android devices, said Menezes.

Another analyst, Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT, said that by designing its new service to appeal to its existing cable customers, Comcast is "leading with its strengths rather than trying to outdo mobile players like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile." It's pay by the gig option does, however, copy other mobile innovators such as Google's Fi service, "which has long delivered flat-rate pricing and data plans that charge by the GBs used per month."

Yet despite those moves, King said he is "not sure it will be enough to inspire customers to embrace Xfinity. With droves of consumers continuing to abandon cable carriers, it seems unlikely that sizable numbers will change their minds and willingly tie their mobile services to cable bundles."

Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, called Xfinity Mobile "a decent offering, but it probably majors too much on WiFi given how little value its users will get out of that element of the service."

The service will be "a really good deal for the top 25 percent of existing Comcast customers, and just a decent deal for all their other customers," he said. "It will probably work out cheaper than Verizon's own services, which is not bad given that Verizon is the underlying network provider so users will get the same coverage and quality. But even if it does really well, the fact that Comcast is only going to be selling it to its own broadband customers means the impact on the overall market will be pretty limited."

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts first revealed the company's plans last September at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York, but rumors about such an offering had circulated for at least a year earlier, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The move comes as Comcast continues to seek new sources for revenue and business as many consumers drop their cable television and internet services and move to streaming video and media services, such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Comcast made a similar bold move in April 2016 when it announced the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion as the longtime cable company seeks to steady its future by adding complementary businesses as the future of cable television remains unfocused.