Comcast CEO hints at mobile service for small business customers

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted this week about plans to soon offer small business customers wireless service.

Currently Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile service is available to the company’s consumer broadband customers, with an MVNO relationship that allows subscribers to ride on Verizon’s network. At the end of 2020, Xfinity Mobile had 2.8 million subscriber lines, adding 246,000 in the fourth quarter.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference Wednesday, Roberts mentioned conversations with Verizon to extend service to small business customers, and indicated more details will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

“We wanted to make that wireless available to small businesses. That wasn't something we were doing previously. So we sat down and had a very constructive dialogue,” Roberts said, according to a transcript. “And while I don't, again, today, have the fruit of that conversation for you, but what I can say is in several weeks, we will be able to come back with evidence of why we believe this will increase our sales and increase our velocity in the wireless business.”

RELATED: Comcast adds 246K wireless subs in Q4

He went on to say one can assume they’re talking about different kinds of pricing and packaging for customers that take Comcast’s products in a way that continues to be profitable for the company.

“That's the advantage of the wireless scale that we're starting to get. We work very constructively with Charter and Verizon,” Roberts said.

The Comcast Business Mobile site already says Comcast Business Mobile service is available for Comcast Business Internet customers, offering “by the Gig” shared data (1 GB/$15 per month, 3 GB/$30 per month, 10 GB/$60 per month) or unlimited data for $45 per month per line.  

But it then directs businesses to the Xfinity Mobile site, gauging interest from customers with this message:

“We’re working on extending Comcast Business Mobile to Comcast Business Internet customers … One of our specialists will reach out when we’re ready to help you and your team.”  

RELATED: Charter CEO says the company has 2.5M MVNO subscribers

Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research, believes a move by Comcast into mobility for business customers makes sense.

“This is a logical extension of being a wireless carrier,” Moore told Fierce. “Xfinity Mobile has not been involved in business wireless connectivity, wireless prepaid or IoT. These are all logical adjacencies for Xfinity Mobile to consider.”

During the Morgan Stanley event, Roberts also couldn’t talk about spectrum auctions (Comcast was a qualified bidder, partnering with Charter, at the recent C-band auction but didn’t purchase any licenses). Verizon, meanwhile, spent more than $45 billion on C-band spectrum and has an investor day scheduled for March 10, when it's likely to talk about C-band.

Roberts reiterated that Comcast’s eventual goal is to “be able to have a mix between the MVNO and offloading dense areas, and I think we have a path to do all of that.”

Comcast scooped up priority access licenses (PALs) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz auction last summer and have talked about developing ways to use the spectrum to offload traffic in dense, high-usage areas. The cable operator wants a planned auction for spectrum at 3.45-3.55 GHZ to be structured in a similar fashion as CBRS.

RELATED: FCC’s Rosenworcel circulates draft order on 3.45-3.55 GHz

When it comes to Comcast’s consumer mobile customers, Roberts on Wednesday pointed out that having wireless in the mix helps reduce churn overall as its bundled with broadband service.

“What we found in the early years is that we also get – just as we said about Flex – we got a 20 basis point reduction in churn for a customer who takes wireless,” something the company first saw in the early days of triple play bundles. “We’re saving you money and giving you as good or better product than what you had before we saved you money.”

And he acknowledged the importance of handsets for current and the next generation of customers.

“Your mobile device is as important as your broadband connection,” Roberts said. “It’s as important as your television, some days, more important, less important, depends how you’re feeling and your connectivity.”

Comcast’s Wi-Fi also plays a role in its mobility service, not just in Wi-Fi offload with a network of Wi-Fi hotspots available to Xfinity Mobile subscribers, but the in-home experience as well.

During Covid, Comcast deployed different versions of the latest Wi-Fi, he said, “getting ready for personalized experience with that Wi-Fi for each customer, you know what you’re consuming, what your kids are consuming.” 

Customers have a lot more detail about their Wi-Fi usage, according to Roberts, with more announcements coming this year regarding broadband innovation.