While Verizon eyes cable, Comcast is well on way into wireless
While Verizon Communications Inc. thinks about ways to become more like a cable company, Comcast Corp. is advancing its plans to compete with the mobile-phone giant in the wireless business.
Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts said Thursday his company’s planned wireless service will support the most popular smartphones. That makes it likely that Comcast subscribers will be able to make calls and surf the web using an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy, a perk that would give the largest U.S. cable company an advantage over other newer entrants in the wireless market.
Roberts’ comments on a conference call with analysts shed some light on Comcast’s secretive effort to expand beyond residential TV, internet and phone service and battle rivals such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon head-on in the mobile-phone business. For its part, Verizon is mulling a combination with another cable company, Charter Communications Inc. Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam approached Liberty Media Corp. CEO Greg Maffei about a possible deal with Charter, where Maffei sits on the board, according to people familiar with the matter. Verizon’s approach was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Until now, Comcast had said little about its wireless plans beyond announcing last fall that it will offer the service — using a combination of its wi-fi hot spots and Verizon Communications Inc.’s wireless network — by the middle of this year. Roberts said Comcast will offer wireless as part of its multi-product bundle as a way to keep customers.
Comcast has a deal with Verizon that goes back to 2011 and allows the Philadelphia-based cable company to sell wireless service using the mobile-phone giant’s network. As part of that deal, Comcast is barred from using Verizon’s name on its service, according to people familiar with the matter. Comcast may use its Xfinity retail stores to help sell wireless service, the people said.
“The goal of the business is to have better bundling with some of our customers who want to save some of their bills and get a world-class product and take a bundle and have lower churn,” Roberts said Thursday.
Like other wireless providers, Comcast plans to purchase phones as part of its wireless service and collect payments for them from customers over time, which the company said will cut into cash flow.