Reports surfaced late last year that Comcast, acting as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), intended to launch a branded wireless service that would piggyback on Verizon’s nationwide network of cell towers.
Comcast, which earned the option in 2011 as part of a $3.6 billion spectrum licensing deal with Verizon, confirmed on Tuesday that it will indeed exercise the option.
During a speaking engagement at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference on Tuesday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said his company plans to launch a wireless service by mid-2017 as it seeks to create a new business that may help it retain customers in a highly competitive market. Roberts added that they believe the service will result in reduced churn, more stickiness and better satisfaction.
In addition to the agreement with Verizon for spectrum, Comcast will lean on its 15 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the country to bolster the service. That’s similar to how Google’s Project Fi works, which uses a trio of wireless carriers – Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular – along with millions of free, open Wi-Fi hotspots to power its offering.
Rather than market the service nationwide, however, Comcast aims to sell it within its existing footprint to current and potential cable customers and use it as a tool to upsell customers on bigger bundles, much like it does today with its Xfinity Triple Play bundles.