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To Xfinity and Beyond? When Cablecos Go Wireless

Trends

By Pete BellApr 17, 2017

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U.S. cableco Comcast has announced that it’s entering the country’s MVNO sector with the launch of its Xfinity Mobile service, which piggybacks on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network and uses Xfinity’s 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide.

Comcast says users may pay for the service per-gigabyte ($12 per GB), or they may opt for unlimited data at either $45 per line or $65 per line. This pricing depends on the level of the user’s fixed broadband subscription. Up to five lines may be added per account with compatible devices, including models from Apple, Samsung, and LG.

A Simple Solution

Greg Butz, president of Comcast Mobile, says of the new offering: “Mobility is more important than ever to consumers, so we’ve designed Xfinity Mobile the way mobile should be—a simple solution for internet and entertainment in and out of the home.”

Comcast is not the first cable operator to add mobility to its multi-play service portfolio. And this year Comcast is likely to be joined by domestic rival Charter Communications, which inherited an MVNO deal—also with Verizon—via its acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Poor Track Record

The concept of bundling mobility with home fixed line services would seem like a sound business proposition. But when it comes to enabling cablecos to cross-sell wireless products to their existing home users, the picture is actually less clear.

Internationally, relatively few cablecos have managed to make a major splash in the mobile sector via MVNO businesses. Most cable firms that have launched as mobile resellers now find themselves with low single-figure shares in their respective cellular markets.

Most cable firms that have launched as mobile resellers now find themselves with low single-figure shares in their respective cellular markets.

One of the few real successes was Telenet in Belgium, which managed to win around 8 percent of that country’s mobile sector subscribers by the end of 2015. Since then, it has switched gears and acquired mobile network operator BASE, giving Telenet its own fully-fledged cellular service.

Selected Cablecos With MVNO Operations (Dec-2016)

Country Company Launch Year MVNO Subscribers Mobile Market Share
Australia iiNet 2010 168,750 0.5%
Austria UPC 2014 30,500 0.2%
Chile VTR 2013 160,000 0.7%
Costa Rica Cabletica 2014 51,000 0.6%
Germany Unitymedia 2011 353,100 0.3%
Hungary UPC 2014 62,500 0.6%
Ireland Virgin Media 2015 17,900 0.3%
Netherlands Ziggo 2013 242,100 1.3%
Norway TDC Nordic 2006 54,950 0.9%
Poland UPC 2011 5,300 0.0%
Portugal Nowo 2016 60,000 0.4%
South Korea CJ HelloVision 2012 843,350 1.4%
Spain ONO 2009 1,175,000 2.0%
Switzerland UPC 2014 80,300 0.7%
United Kingdom Virgin Media 1999 3,022,300 3.3%

 

Telenet is part of the Liberty Global stable, which also owns UK cableco Virgin Media, a firm whose Virgin Mobile MVNO operation had around 3.3 percent of all UK cellular subscribers at the end of 2016. Other Liberty Global units have fared less well, with subsidiaries in countries such as Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, and Switzerland claiming shares of under 1 percent.

Comcast will certainly be hoping for a more successful outcome in the U.S.

 

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Pete Bell

Pete Bell

Pete Bell is a Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database and also contributes to the daily CommsUpdate newsletter. He has a particular interest in wireless broadband and was responsible for TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service until it was integrated into GlobalComms.

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