Comcast, the enormous cable, internet and content creation behemoth, just launched cellular service despite owning no actual wireless spectrum.
The company, which owns NBCUniversal along with its massive Comcast Cable division, will offer 4G LTE service under the Xfinity Mobile brand, in partnership with Verizon, which powers the actual cellular part of the proposition. The other part is automatic access to Comcast's 16 million wireless hotspots peppered around the country, which will be open to all Xfinity Wireless customers through a simple authentication process that uses the other Xfinity apps and services to verify a customer's identity.
But Xfinity Wireless will not be available to everyone; it's a bundle-only deal for existing Xfinity cable or internet customers (pdf), and will differ in price per line depending on how much one already spends with the company.
"Xfinity Mobile benefits customers by bundling wireless service with Comcast's other Xfinity experiences. With Xfinity Mobile, customers only pay for the gigabytes they use, with the flexibility to easily switch back-and-forth between data options using the Xfinity Mobile app at no cost."
The idea is pretty straightforward: existing Xfinity customers can sign up for unlimited wireless service for $65 per line, up to five lines. Top-tier Xfinity X1 customers, though, get the service for $45 per line, but at this point it's not clear what that minimum spend is. But despite being called unlimited, wireless service is throttled after 20GB per line, which is lower than Verizon's own unlimited throttling policy.
The other way to get service is by the gigabyte: each line can spend $12 per gigabyte, which works out to be cheaper if the user stays under 5GB per month. Users can go back and forth between the two options, so if it appears that one line is going to spend more than $65 per month in a la carte data, it can switch to the unlimited option with no penalties.
The offering is, technology-wise, very similar to Google's Project Fi in that Xfinity Mobile is acting as an MVNO, facilitating a mix of wireless and easily-accessible Wi-Fi hotspots around the U.S. The major difference, though, is that Comcast is generally disliked by most of its customers (it was voted "the worst company in America" three years ago), and plans to bundle its bevy of entertainment options with each phone:
When using Xfinity Mobile, you're already signed into your other Xfinity apps – whether it's watching up to 200 live TV channels and 40K On Demand movies and shows with the Xfinity Stream app, or controlling your home devices from the road with the Xfinity Home app.
Comcast says that customers will be able to manage all of their mobile services, including adding and removing lines, buying more data or switching plans, or cancelling service, through the Xfinity Mobile app.
And while the company is entirely a wireless MVNO right now, working exclusively with Verizon, it has bid in the now-closed 600MHz wireless auction, so it's possible it could launch 4G LTE service of its own in the near future, at least in some parts of the country.
When it launches in the coming months (no word on a specific launch date yet) it will offer a range of phones, including the latest devices from Samsung, LG and Apple, according to a press release. It's unclear at this point, due to the tie-ins with Xfinity services, whether you'll ever be able to bring your own phone.
Are you into this at all? If you're an Xfinity customer, are the prices preferable to your current plan, unlimited or not? Let us know in the comments!
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