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Roberts: Wireless Product Coming in Mid-2017

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said the country’s largest cable operator is preparing to launch a wireless product by the middle of next year, integrating its WiFi service with Verizon Wireless mobile technology.

Roberts, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York didn’t offer many details on the wireless offering, adding that it will be targeted at Comcast’s best customers – those that take at least two services from the cable operator.

“The concept would be that our very best customers, of which we have 28 million, and well over 70%- to -80% bought some sort of multi-package from us, we can sell them more products,” Roberts said. “And if that product can be the Verizon wireless product, maybe improved with our 15 million WiFi hotspots where its more seamless, and we are able to give you a good value proposition, we believe there will be a big payback, with red churn, with more stickiness, with better satisfaction, more product purchasing from us. We’re excited to be working toward that.”

Comcast exercised its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with Verizon – part of its 2011 sale of wireless spectrum to the company – last year. In July, Comcast created Comcast Mobile, headed by former EVP of sales and marketing operations Greg Butz, to investigate the wireless opportunity.

Comcast has ventured into the wireless business in the past with mixed results. But the company says this time it is taking a cautious approach.

“We want to do it right and we want to do it well,” Roberts said.

Comcast also is taking its time regarding offering smaller video packages, so-called skinny bundles,  that several other pay TV and over-the-top providers have embraced.

At the conference, Roberts wasn’t convinced that smaller is necessarily better.

“I don’t know if that’s really what people want,” Roberts said of skinny bundles. “There’s certainly some who want to pay less, but I don’t know too many programmers who are saying ‘I want to go a la carte and it works for my business.' But we’re experimenting and there are clearly some customers who are saying therefore I won’t buy at all.”

Roberts added that about 30% of Comcast customers that take smaller video packages eventually upsell to a fuller offering. He noted that Comcast has begun adding video customers in the past 12 months, “We’re not going backwards,” Roberts said. “Our focus is to continue to make the bundle more valuable.”