When Comcast launched its Xfinity Mobile service in 2017, it wasn’t taken too seriously by the competition, due to its lack of retail presence and limited device/service portfolio. This perception changed rather drastically when Comcast announced it had a quarter million subscribers within the first five months of its pilot launch. Xfinity Mobile may not have a retail presence, but its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement to run on Verizon’s network, simplified service offerings, and an efficient device merchandising strategy (phone models offered by Comcast account for over 50 percent of all device activations in the U.S. market) make it a strong value proposition for households that are already invested in the Xfinity ecosystem.
We expect 2018 to be a much more productive year for Comcast, which is working on expanding its retail presence, alongside opening its service to bring your own device (BYOD). The cable giant has service contracts with over 30 million households in the U.S. and can potentially target all of these homes with its offering. The same goes for Charter Communications, which has announced its plans to launch a mobile service in 2018.
The cable industry’s unique composition, in which operators collaborate rather than compete, has already proven to be a strong differentiator for Comcast and Charter as they joined forces to explore operational efficiencies on mobile operations, such as procurement and network management. Charter has over 22 million broadband subscribers and over 16 million video subscribers, and like Comcast, it will have the opportunity to target all of these customers with a mobile offering. To add to the equation, Altice, the French-based telecom giant that owns Cablevision, has just recently announced an MVNO agreement with Sprint for a mobile play.
With traditional mobile carriers shifting focus to in-home and on-the-go entertainment (AT&T’s DirecTV and Time Warner acquisitions, T-Mobile buying Layer3, Verizon expanding content partnerships), cable companies had to react and in 2018 we will see these cable-powered mobile plays solidifying. With over 40 percent* of cellphone owners showing interest in an affordable mobile solution as part of a service bundle from their cable providers, the MSO threat is more real than ever.
*Source – NPD Connected Intelligence Mobile Connectivity Survey – August 2017