On the heels of a major wi-fi roaming agreement for the cable industry, Comcast announced today the launch of Voice 2go, a free calling app for use over wireless networks, including wi-fi networks. The move sheds more light on the evolving wireless strategy of the cable industry.
Voice2go allows Comcast subscribers to use their home phone number to make ‘free’ calls on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, utilizing wireless data networks of the 3G, 4G, or wi-fi variety. The new app is an extension of the existing Xfinity Connect Mobile (formerly the Xfinity mobile app). The service also enables free text messaging. Neither the calls nor text messages enabled by the Voice2go app count against the subscriber’s wireless voice or text messaging plans, since they are utilizing mobile data access to complete them. Comcast also includes several international destinations for this service including “… Canada, Brazil, China and, soon, Mexico.”
“We continue to enhance our Xfinity Voice service by adding new features consumers have come to expect from smartphones and mobile technology,” said Cathy Avgiris, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Data and Communications Services in a press release. “These new tools enable customers to stay connected to their home phone service and take it with them virtually wherever they go.”
Think of this approach as Comcast’s own version of Skype, with a couple of major difference. Voice2go allows a subscriber to “port” their home phone number to this service, which conceivably adds value to home phone service from Comcast. Subscribers can make a call from their mobile device, and appear as if they are calling from home. Additionally, unlike Skype, there are no additional charges to connect with people who are not in the Comcast network. Skype generally charges you to connect with people outside of the Skype network. One drawback though is Comcast’s service is limited to outbound calling only, at least for now.
Comcast also provides an additional four ‘personal’ numbers which can be used with this service. Personal numbers can be given to, say, children, who can then use the service to place calls using their tablet or smartphone, inside or outside of the home (when in reach of wi-fi). This eliminates the need for a household to buy multiple lines (wireless or wireline) for their children or others.
Creating value for home phone service is a key goal of service providers, even cable companies, whose maturing home phone service business line is starting to feel the cord cutting movement that their telephone company competitors have dealt with for years now (much of which came from the cable industry).
The move also illustrates a major wireless strategy for the cable industry. Rely on an expanding wi-fi footprint to offer voice -type services, while also complementing that with the pending co-marketing deal with Verizon Wireless. That pretty much covers your wireless needs without investing the billions necessary to build your own traditional wireless network. On the surface, it looks to be a smart strategy.