Comcast to Launch WiMAX, 3G

Comcast Corp. is becoming an MVNO on the Clearwire Corp. WiMAX network, and on Sprint-Nextel Corp.’s 3G data EV-DO Rev. a network. Result: Combined 3G/4G service with seamless roaming between the two thanks to dual-mode Comcast-branded wireless data laptop cards, plus a 4G-only service for those that don’t travel from town to town.

The cableco, a Clearwire investor, is launching the data-only service (no voice component is included initially) in Portland today and in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and more by the end of 2009. The service will be branded as Comcast High-Speed 2Go. The plan is to bundle it for residential and small business customers with one or more of its existing products (voice, data, video), in order to live up to its name of enabling subscribers to take their fixed broadband with them.

The gambit has proven successful for cablecos using Wi-Fi to give on-the-go access to broadband as a competitive differentiator to the RBOCs, including Cablevision Systems’ rollout of a Wi-Fi footprint in Long Island and Comcast itself trialing Wi-Fi along the commuter rail in New Jersey. That access was free to home broadband customers, making it a retention device.

In this case Comcast will sell wired and wireless broadband together at launch as a “Fast Pack” for $49.99 per month for one year. Both new and existing Comcast customers will be eligible for special bundled pricing, with triple play customers receiving 4G wireless as an add-on for $30 per month.

Comcast is selling two different data cards and service plans:

Comcast High-Speed 2go Metro service uses a 4G-only data card giving customers the fastest wireless service within the 4G metro coverage area. The Metro device operates only in a 4G service footprint.

Comcast High-Speed 2go Nationwide service delivers metro 4G service plus coast-to-coast access on Sprint’s national 3G network. The nationwide device automatically switches between available 4G and 3G networks.

Comcast joins Sprint in becoming an MVNO for Clearwire, for whom wholesale is an important part of the business model, which is struggling to gain economies of scale for bringing to market more WiMAX-enabled devices.

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