Comcast Hopes a Cell-Phone Service Will Keep You From Cutting the Cord

Cable companies have typically taken a beating in our annual surveys, earning low scores for value and overall satisfaction. So how would you like one to be your cell-phone service provider?

If you're a Comcast subscriber, you can find out next year, when the company launches a wireless phone service that will run on some 15 million WiFi hot spots, and then tap into Verizon's wireless network when you're out of range.

The company announced its plans, which will be limited to those within Comcast's cable footprint, at an investor conference Tuesday. According to a transcript of the conference, which Comcast sent Consumer Reports, the company expects the service to launch by the middle of 2017.

A Bigger Bundle

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Details of the plan are sketchy at this point. The company didn't elaborate on which phones would be able to access its service, for example, or how much plans would cost.

But the ability to offer cell-phone plans bundled with services such as TV, internet, and regular phone service could be a helpful tool in retaining subscribers as Comcast and other cable companies continue to shed pay TV service customers.

“We believe there will be a big payback with reduced churn, more stickiness, and better satisfaction,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at the conference.

The move also underscores Comcast's wireless ambitions. The company is bidding for airwaves via the federal government's auction of wireless spectrum. It also reportedly has considered acquiring a cellular company, such as T-Mobile.

Comcast isn't the first cable company to attempt to launch a wireless phone service for its customers. Cox abandoned a similar effort back in 2011, saying it couldn't compete with the bigger players. And Cablevision tried a $10-per-month WiFi-only service called Freewheel last year, but the service was killed after Cablevision was acquired by Altice.

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