Comcast Teases Wireless Phone Service

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Comcast is prepping for the launch of a Wi-Fi-based phone service by mid-2017.

The country's largest cable operator will reportedly provide a hybrid cellular-and-Wi-Fi service, using a combination of Verizon's network and millions of its own wireless hotspots, Bloomberg reports.

"The concept would be that our very best customers...buy some sort of multi-package bundle from us," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during this week's Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York, according to a transcript. "We believe there will be a big payback with reduced churn, with more stickiness, with better satisfaction, more product purchasing from us.

"We are excited to be working toward that and we will have a lot more to take about," Roberts said. "It's a little early to be talking about it, but we get so many questions about wireless I thought it's important to just begin to explain here's where we are driving toward."

This move comes as more people are ditching their traditional TV packages for streaming options, leaving the cable giant to find new sources of revenue.

In 2013, Comcast revealed plans to create Wi-Fi access points for Xfinity Internet subscribers as part of a "home-based neighborhood hotspots initiative." The additional "xfinitywifi" network signal can be shared, separate from a home's private broadband signal, and allows Comcast to extend its network by having customers pay for the equipment. The company has since installed some 15 million of its dual-mode routers across the country, according to Roberts.

Comcast has considered adding wireless to its TV, Internet, and digital phone offerings in the past. But the more widespread availability of Wi-Fi calling and new spectrum make it a more appealing gamble, Bloomberg says.

The FCC in October issued a limited waiver allowing AT&T to roll out Wi-Fi calling; Verizon followed suit in December. When a user travels outside the carrier's 4G LTE network, their call should seamlessly transfer to a known Wi-Fi hotspot, when available.

Google last year introduced Project Fi, a wireless service that also relies largely on Wi-Fi hotspots but switches to cellular service from Sprint or T-Mobile when a Wi-Fi signal is unavailable. Though no longer invitation-only, Project Fi is still restricted to Google's Nexus lineup: the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.

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