Comcast Sets Launch of Prepaid TV and Internet Services

Will debut prepaid offerings initially in five states; inks sales channel deal with Boost Mobile
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Following a lengthy trial period, Comcast said it will launch prepaid Internet and TV services later this year in five markets, with plans to expand access across its footprint by the end of 2017.

Those no-contract services, marketed under the Xfinity Prepaid Services brand, will initially be offered in Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Florida and Indiana.

Comcast also announced a retail distribution deal with Sprint-owned prepaid mobile unit, Boost Mobile, which will provide the MSO with a point-of-purchase retail option. There are 4,441 Boost Mobile stores in the states in which Comcast provides service. Comcast has also been working with a variety of local retailers during the trial period. Customers can also sign up for prepaid service online or by phone (855-75-PREPAID).

Notably, Comcast has not been counting prepaid customers in its earnings during the trial phase (Comcast started to test prepaid Internet services back in late 2012), and will continue to report subscriber figures that include only post-paid customers. Comcast said there’s been no decision to change its current methodology for recognizing and reporting its customer relationships. Comcast, by the way, is scheduled to report Q2 2016 results on Wednesday, July 27.

Similar to prepaid offerings that have been successful in the cellular market, Comcast has been targeting its prepaid offerings at consumers without bank accounts or those with bad credit history who can't qualify for a post-paid TV or Internet service.

“We want to create an easy, pay-as-you-go option for people who want more flexibility and predictability when buying our services,” Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president, consumer services, Comcast Cable.  “And our partnership with Boost Mobile will give Xfinity Prepaid customers even more places where they can conveniently sign-up and pay-as-they-go.”

One challenge with prepaid service is to avoid cannibalizing post-paid customers. Per Comcast’s policy for prepaid, prospective customers cannot have an active account with the operator. Comcast has set up a web site where consumers can check to see if they are eligible for one of the MSO’s prepaid services. 

Pricing and Packaging

Customers who want prepaid must purchase a Starter Kit that includes the requisite equipment, and 30 days of service. Customers can refill their service in seven- and 30-day increments online at xfinityprepaid.net, by visiting a participating retailer, or by calling the number mentioned above.

The $80 Starter Kit for Comcast’s prepaid Internet service, which offers 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps upstream, includes a wireless DOCSIS 3.0 gateway and the necessary cables. Customers can refill it for seven days for $15 or 30 days for $45. That service is not considered “broadband” in the eyes of the FCC, which raised its definition of broadband to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps upstream in January 2015.

Comcast’s is selling two primary TV Prepaid products that use Digital Television Adapters (DTAs), one-way channel-zappers that do not support VOD.

-TV Prepaid 200: An $80 Starter Kit with the DTA, remote control and cables, and 30 days of a service that includes more than 45 channels (including the local TV broadcasters, but no sports networks). Refills cost $15 for seven days, or $45 for 30 days.

-TV Prepaid 450: A $120 Starter Kit with a DTA, remote control, cables, and 30 days of service, with a lineup of more than 140 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, and FS1, with many delivered in HD.

Comcast is also offering a TV Prepaid Latino add-on package comprised of more than 60 channels, including Univision, Univision Deportes, ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, Telemundo beIN Sports, Cine Mexicano, Galavision, and Familia Discovery. Per the web site, TV Prepaid Latino can be added to either TV Prepaid 200 or TV Prepaid 450 packages at no additional charge. 

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