Prepaid Primping

Comcast has kept a fairly low profile when it comes to its ongoing market trials of prepaid Internet and prepaid TV services.  While the company appears to be testing its prepaid Internet product in most of its markets, the reach of its newer prepaid TV service has been relegated to the metro Detroit area.

But there’s evidence that Comcast is getting ready toot its prepaid horn a bit louder and perhaps push ahead with a bona fide commercial lauch, based on the recent debut of a sharper-looking prepaid service site. The refresh marks the biggest outward-facing change to the budding service category since Comcast began to test its first prepaid service (Internet) back in the fall of 2012.

Comcast began to test a prepaid TV product in Detroit last year, offering a Starter Kit for $69.95 that includes a standard-def Digital Transport Adapter, cabling, a remote control, and 30 days of service. After that period, customers can purchase a seven-day refill for $15, or buy another 30 day of service for $45.

A Comcast official confirmed that the prepaid TV service hasn’t expanded beyond the Detroit area, and has not announced when or if it might extend the offer to additional markets.

Comcast’s more widely available prepaid Internet offering has also seen few changes in recent weeks, as pricing has remained  aligned with the operator’s prepaid video offering -- $69.95 for the starter kit, with refills going for $15 for seven days, and $45 for 30 days. The max throughputs supported by the prepaid Internet product have remained at 3 Mbps down by 768 kbps upstream.

But there’s also some evidence that Comcast is starting to support a wider range of cable modem products.  After starting out with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem from Arris, prepaid kits being presented on the revised prepaid site appear to show a new, miniaturized D3 modem developed by Hitron Technologies that was granted the CableLabs certification stamp last year (pictured at right). In addition to the potential retail angle, Hitron has previously said that the new, smaller model could also help MSOs migrate customers from old DOCSIS 3.0 modems to the more efficient 3.0 platform.

Although Comcast has characterized its prepaid products as being in the trial phase, the MSO is handling fulfillment through a national phone number (855-75-PREPAID), and is pitching its prepaid Internet product at various retail outlets in parts of Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey, and the prepaid Internet and TV products at select retailers in Detroit.

As not to cannibalize its post-paid base, Comcast is limiting access to its prepaid products to customers that don’t currently get service from the operator or don’t otherwise qualify for its post-paid offerings.