Comcast has announced changes to Xfinity Mobile that will incentivize users to take limited cellular plans.
The operator will now charge unlimited users $20 a month if they want to stream HD video. According to The Verge, the policy has actually been in place for about a year, but users had previously been able waive the charge by calling Comcast and making an ask.
Simultaneously, Comcast is removing the cap that limits video resolution to 480p on its “By the Gig” plan. Users can stream all the video they want in 720p format on smart phones and full 1080p on tablets. (It claims those latter limitations are provisioned by Verizon, from which it leases mobile network usage via MVNO deal.)
Notably, By the Gig is being tweaked to make it more of a traditional limited plan and less of an a la carte option. The plan lets users pay as they go for each gigabyte of cellular data they use in $12 increments. However, now they can pre-select buckets of 3GB and 10GB, which can be shared across users in family plans.
The buckets offer significant savings—for example, the 3GB plan is only $30 vs. $36 via the traditional a la carte system. The 10GB bucket, meanwhile, is $60 vs. $120 if you used that much data without selecting the new “By the Gig Shared Data” option. But you have to choose this option before you use the data, not after.
Comcast hasn't disclosed the economics of its mobile virtual network operator agreement with Verizon. But it's probably not too much of a leap to say that wholesale usage of the Verizon network must be as limited as much as possible in order for Xfinity Mobile to be profitable.
“We saw an opportunity to better serve groups of friends and families who don’t need unlimited but want more than a pay per GB plan, so we’re introducing shared data options whereby the more data you purchase, the less you pay per gigabyte,” said Rui Costa, VP of product management and customer experience for Xfinity Mobile. “It’s a natural evolution of our service that puts each individual in control of building the mobile data plan that works for them and then easily adjusting it with one click of the app – whether to switch data plans mid-billing cycle based on usage, or turn on HD to watch a show and then immediately turn it off to lower data consumption.”