comcastComcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed that Comcast wireless plans are definitely in play, with a wireless service from the broadband and entertainment conglomerate expected sometime in 2017.

Responding to questions at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference today, Comcast’s CEO offered more insight into Comcast wireless plans.

“[T]he team of well over 150 people today are getting ready next year, probably toward I don’t know somewhere in the middle of next year, maybe a little sooner, but not at the beginning of next year, to launch a WiFi and MVNO-integrated product,” responded Roberts to a Comcast wireless plans question. “We exercised our MVNO rights with Verizon Wireless as many people know.”

The concept has been discussed for some time. Comcast has over 15 million WiFi hotspots, most of which are in consumer and business customer locations. The cable company will leverage that WiFi network for a WiFi first mobile service, using the Verizon Wireless network as backfill when out of range of WiFi.

“If that product can be the Verizon Wireless product, maybe improved with our WiFi 15 million hotspots where it’s more seamless, and we are able to give you a good value proposition if you are one of our better customers, we believe there will be a big payback with reduced churn, with more stickiness, with better satisfaction, more product purchasing from us,” said Roberts.

Mobile is Desirable Domain
Comcast and its cable brethren are dominating fixed broadband right now, with most of their net adds coming from disgruntled legacy AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink DSL customers. But it’s the exact opposite picture on mobile, where Verizon and AT&T dominate. Comcast wants in on mobile too.

But it won’t be easy. Cable companies have made several attempts at wireless over the years, including the failed Pivot joint venture. Cablevision launched a WiFi only wireless service, Freewheel, which has since been discontinued. Needless to say, wireless efforts by the cable industry have a poor track record.

Comcast will not be alone with this hybrid WiFi approach. Google has Project Fi and there are other similar services like Republic Wireless. Competition will be stiff.

But Comcast has 28 million customer relationships to cultivate. Roberts says they don’t intend to go nationwide and will only focus on their incumbent cable MSO territory. This should get interesting.

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