Comcast today confirmed long-rumored plans that the company will be getting into the wireless business. Speaking to attendees of the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York this morning, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed plans that the company would be launching its long-awaited wireless service sometime in the middle of 2017. Much as rumors had suggested, Roberts confirmed that the service will lean heavily on WiFi, but will utilize the Verizon Wireless network when users are out of WiFi range.
“We’re excited to be working toward that,” Roberts told conference attendees. “We believe its value-added to our customers. That’s what we’re working on.”
The service will lean heavily on Comcast’s existing footprint of roughly 15 million hotspots. Many of those hotspots exist in consumers homes, where over the last few years firmware updates have turned residential gateways into public WiFi access points.
Said hotspots don’t count data used by the public toward your usage allotment if you’re in a capped Comcast market, though users will of course be on the hook for the modest power consumption of sharing your bandwidth publicly. Fortunately users can disable this functionality (though it doesn’t always appear to work) if they’re not keen on helping back Comcast’s quest to become a wireless provider.
Roberts failed to offer significantly more detail about the effort, but the announcement isn’t a surprise.
Speaking on a conference call in February, Comcast executives re-iterated the company’s interest in eventually offering wireless service, by confirming the cable giant would participate in the FCC’s 600 MHz spectrum auction. Comcast also confirmed it has been working on a wireless product for a while, recently reaching out to Verizon to rework a 2011 spectrum-sharing deal.
Roberts’ confirmation of Comcast’s wireless plans came as the CEO was demonstrating the company’s new Netflix integration on its X1 cable set top box. Neither Comcast or Verizon Wireless responded to a request for comment on the upcoming wireless service.