Actor Ryan Reynolds recently announced that he has acquired an ownership stake in Mint Mobile. I expect that Reynolds only owns a part of Mint Mobile rather than the entire company, but I’m not entirely sure. In many places, Reynolds is described as the owner of Mint Mobile in a way that doesn’t seem incompatible with him having complete or near-complete ownership of the company.
From Reynolds’ Twitter bio:
From Reynolds’ tweet announcing involvement with Mint:
From a banner on Mint’s website:
However, Mint Mobile’s press release makes it sound like Reynolds only acquired partial ownership:
Mint Mobile, the wireless company offering carrier-grade service for a fraction of the cost, today announced actor, writer, producer and mobile phone enthusiast Ryan Reynolds has purchased an ownership stake in the company.
The press release suggests that Reynolds will become involved with Mint’s marketing and communications efforts. I’d love to see Mint come up with ads similar to this one that Reynolds used to promote his gin brand:
On Wednesday, the FCC released a fascinating report related to the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II). The MF-II is a planned program to provide federal funding for network build-outs in rural areas that are underserved by 4G coverage.
To determine which geographic areas were underserved, the FCC requested coverage maps and data from network operators. After reviewing the data and allowing outside entities to challenge the datas’ reliability, the FCC became concerned about the accuracy of the information shared by T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. The FCC decided to conduct its own performance tests and compare the results of its tests to the information the network operators provided. Here’s what the agency found:
Through the investigation, staff discovered that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile likely overstated each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground performance in many instances. Only 62.3% of staff drive tests achieved at least the minimum download speed predicted by the coverage maps—with U.S. Cellular achieving that speed in only 45.0% of such tests, T-Mobile in 63.2% of tests, and Verizon in 64.3% of tests…In addition, staff was unable to obtain any 4G LTE signal for 38% of drive tests on U.S. Cellular’s network, 21.3% of drive tests on T-Mobile’s network, and 16.2% of drive tests on Verizon’s network, despite each provider reporting coverage in the relevant area.
When considering the accuracy of coverage maps, I try to think about the incentives network operators face. When advertising to consumers, network operators often have an incentive to overstate the extent of their coverage. However, incentives can run in the opposite direction in other situations. For example, when trying to get approval for a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, Sprint had incentives to make its 4G coverage profile look limited and inferior to the coverage profiles of other nationwide networks.
I’m not well-informed about the MF-II, so I don’t feel like I have a good grasp of all the incentives at play. That said, it’s not clear that all network operators would have an incentive to overstate their coverage. A network operator that claimed to offer coverage in an area it didn’t cover may limit competitors’ access to subsidies in that area. However, a network operator erroneously claiming to cover an area may prevent itself from receiving subsidies in that area.
After network operators submitted coverage information to the FCC, a number of entities, including both governments and network operators, were allowed to challenge the validity of coverage information submitted by others. Here’s a bit more detail about the challenge process:
After release of the map of presumptively eligible areas, mobile service providers, state, local, and Tribal government entities, and other interested parties granted a waiver were eligible to submit challenges in the challenge process via an online system operated by USAC. Challengers that requested access to the USAC MF-II Challenge Portal were able to access the provider-specific coverage maps, after agreeing to keep the coverage data confidential, and to file challenges to providers’ coverage claims by submitting speed test data. Challengers were required to conduct speed tests pursuant to a number of standard parameters using specific testing methods on the providers’ pre-approved handset models. The Commission adopted the requirement that challengers use one of the handsets specified by the provider primarily to avoid inaccurate measurements resulting from the use of an unsupported or outdated device—e.g., a device that does not support all of the spectrum bands for which the provider has deployed 4G LTE…During the eight-month challenge window, 106 entities were granted access to the MF-II Challenge Portal. Of the 106 entities granted access to the MF-II Challenge Portal, 38 were mobile service providers required to file Form 477 data, 19 were state government entities, 27 were local government entities, 16 were Tribal government entities, and six were other entities that filed petitions requesting, and were each granted, a waiver to participate.
About a fifth of the participating entities went on to submit challenges:
21 challengers submitted 20.8 million speed tests across 37 states.
The challenge data often showed failed tests and lackluster speeds in areas where network operators claimed to offer coverage:
During the challenge process, some parties entered specific concerns into the record. For example:
Smith Bagley (d/b/a Cellular One) submitted maps of its service area in Arizona overlaid with Verizon’s publicly-stated 4G LTE coverage and the preliminary results of drive tests that Smith Bagley had conducted. Smith Bagley asserted that, for large stretches of road in areas where Verizon reported coverage, its drive testers recorded no 4G LTE signal on Verizon’s network. Smith Bagley argued that the ‘apparent scope of Verizon’s inaccurate data and overstated coverage claims is so extensive that, as a practical matter, the challenge process will not and cannot produce the necessary corrections.’
As part of a public report detailing its experience, Vermont published a map showing its speed test results which contradicted the coverage maps in Vermont of U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, and Verizon, among others. This map included information on the approximately 187,000 speed tests submitted by Vermont, including download speed, latency, and signal strength. In the report, Vermont detailed that 96% of speed tests for U.S. Cellular, 77% for T-Mobile, and 55% for Verizon failed to receive download speeds of at least 5 Mbps.
After reviewing the challenges, the FCC requested additional information from the five largest network operators (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular) to understand the assumptions involved in the networks’ coverage models.
Around the same time the FCC was requesting additional information from network operators, the agency also began its own testing of Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile’s networks. These speed tests took place in 12 states and primarily made use of a drive-testing methodology. As mentioned earlier, analyses of the FCC’s test data suggested that the on-the-ground experience with Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular’s network was much different than the experience that would be expected based on the information the networks provided to the FCC.
A lot of the commentary and news articles I’ve seen in response to the FCC’s report seem to conclude that network operators are bullshitters that intentionally lied about the extent of their coverage. I have reservations about fully accepting that conclusion. Accurately modeling coverage is difficult. Lots of factors affect the on-the-ground experience of wireless subscribers. The FCC largely acknowledges this reality in its report:
Providers were afforded flexibility to use the parameters that they used in their normal course of business when parameters were not specified by the Commission. For example, the Commission did not specify fading statistics or clutter loss values, and providers were required to model these factors as they would in the normal course of business.
Our speed testing, data analyses, and inquiries, however, suggest that some of these differences may be the result of some providers’ models: (1) using a cell edge RSRP value that was too low, (2) not adequately accounting for network infrastructure constraints, including backhaul type and capacity, or (3) not adequately modeling certain on-the-ground factors—such as the local clutter, terrain, and propagation characteristics by spectrum band for the areas claimed to be covered.
Further supporting the idea that assessing coverage is difficult, the FCC didn’t just find that its tests contradicted the initial information submitted by network operators. The FCC data also contradicted the data submitted by those who challenged network operators’ data:
The causes of the large differences in measured download speed between staff and challenger speed tests taken within the same geographic areas, as well as the high percentage of tests with a download speed of zero in the challenger data, are difficult to determine. Discrepancies may be attributable to differences in test methodologies, network factors at the time of test, differences in how speed tet apps or drive test software process data, or other factors…Given the large differences between challenger and staff results however, we are not confident that individual challenger speed test results provide an accurate representation of the typical consumer on-the-ground experience.
While the FCC found some of the information submitted by networks to be misleading about on-the-ground service quality, I don’t believe it ended up penalizing any network operators or accusing them of anything too serious. Still, the FCC did suggest that some of the network operators could have done better:
Staff engineers, however, found that AT&T’s adjustments to its model to meet the MF-II requirements may have resulted in a more realistic projection of where consumers could receive mobile broadband. This suggests that standardization of certain specifications across the largest providers could result in coverage maps with improved accuracy. Similarly, the fact that AT&T was able to submit coverage data that appear to more accurately reflect MF-II coverage requirements raises questions about why other providers did not do so. And while it is true that MF-II challengers submitted speed tests contesting AT&T’s coverage data, unlike for other major providers, no parties alleged in the record that AT&T’s MF-II coverage data were significantly overstated.
The FCC concluded that it should make some changes to its processes:
First, the Commission should terminate the MF-II Challenge Process. The MF-II coverage maps submitted by several providers are not a sufficiently reliable or accurate basis upon which to complete the challenge process as it was designed.
Second, the Commission should release an Enforcement Advisory on broadband deployment data submissions, including a detailing of the penalties associated with filings that violate federal law, both for the continuing FCC Form 477 filings and the new Digital Opportunity Data Collection. Overstating mobile broadband coverage misleads the public and can misallocate our limited universal service funds.
Third, the Commission should analyze and verify the technical mapping data submitted in the most recent Form 477 filings of Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile to determine whether they meet the Form 477 requirements. Staff recommends that the Commission assemble a team with the requisite expertise and resources to audit the accuracy of mobile broadband coverage maps submitted to the Commission. The Commission should further consider seeking appropriations from Congress to carry out drive testing, as appropriate.
Fourth, the Commission should adopt policies, procedures, and standards in the Digital Opportunity Data Collection rulemaking and elsewhere that allow for submission, verification, and timely publication of mobile broadband coverage data. Mobile broadband coverage data specifications should include, among other parameters, minimum reference signal received power (RSRP) and/or minimum downlink and uplink speeds, standard cell loading factors and cell edge coverage probabilities, maximum terrain and clutter bin sizes, and standard fading statistics. Providers should be required to submit actual on-the-ground evidence of network performance (e.g., speed test measurement samplings, including targeted drive test and stationary test data) that validate the propagation model used to generate the coverage maps. The Commission should consider requiring that providers assume the minimum values for any additional parameters that would be necessary to accurately determine the area where a handset should achieve download and upload speeds no less than the minimum throughput requirement for any modeling that includes such a requirement.
The FCC’s report illustrates how hard it is to assess network performance. Assumptions must be made in coverage models, and the assumptions analysts choose to make can have substantial effects on the outputs of their models. Similarly, on-the-ground performance tests don’t always give simple-to-interpret results. Two entities can run tests in the same area and find different results. Factors like the time of day a test was conducted or the type of device that was used in a test can have big consequences.
If we want consumers to have better information about the quality of service networks can offer, we need entities involved in modeling and testing coverage to be transparent about their methodologies.
In July, Ting announced plans to cease offering service over T-Mobile’s network and begin offering service over Verizon’s network. Initially, it looked like Verizon service would become available in late 2019. Ting also appeared to have plans to move all of its existing customers on T-Mobile’s network to new networks by the end of 2020.
Recently, Ting’s plans have changed. Here’s an excerpt from Tucows’ (Ting’s parent company) last post-quarter Q&A session (emphasis mine):
As a reminder, we announced in July that we had signed a new agreement with Verizon and terminated our agreement with T-Mobile. At that time, we detailed an eighteen-month phase-out period ending December 2020, during which time we could support existing subscribers on T-Mobile, but, starting December 19th of this year, not add new ones. We also warned there would be significant expense and risk involved in migrating about 160,000 subscribers away from T-Mobile by the end of that phase out period.
I am pleased to report that we have reached a subsequent agreement with T-Mobile and a mobile virtual network enabler (or MVNE), named Prepaid Wireless Group (PWG), that essentially eliminates that expense and risk. Prepaid Wireless Group will now be considered our direct provider of T-Mobile network access. The new deal accomplishes a few important things: It extends our ability to support customers on the T-Mobile network for another three years starting this December, with an option to extend further. It allows us to continue to activate subscribers on the T-Mobile network if we choose. And it maintains our current T-Mobile wholesale rates and gives us very reasonable annual revenue guarantees.
With this deal, we no longer have any urgency to migrate these subscribers away from T-Mobile, and no reason to incur expensive incentives going forward to do so. We will now add Verizon with much less rush. We will think about what is best for both our incoming and existing subscribers, and our business across all three of our networks; Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. With very achievable guarantees across all three in the coming years, we also put ourselves in a position to see the outcome of the still unresolved Sprint/T-Mobile situation and be able to watch the landscape evolve.
While Ting will now have the option to add new subscribers to T-Mobile’s network, I expect Ting will generally steer new customers away from T-Mobile. Ting has previously suggested that the rates it pays for access to T-Mobile’s network are not as competitive as the rates it pays for access to Verizon’s superior network.
Mitch from Ting left a comment on Reddit with a bit more information:
We’ve recently come to a new agreement that should allow us to continue to offer Ting GSM service with no interruption for existing Ting GSM users for many years to come. It’s true that this does clash with some of the messaging we’ve had of late, but our strategy of moving as many otherwise-eligible people off of Ting GSM and onto Ting CDMA as possible has not changed.
I’m still excited for Ting to launch its Verizon-based service, but I don’t know if we’ll see that service become available before the end of 2019.
Hat tip to Reddit user robchaos for drawing attention to the information in Ting’s recent Q&A session.
In October, the network evaluator Tutela released its USA State of MVNOs report. Most network evaluators only assess the performance of the Big Four carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon), so it’s interesting to see Tutela assessing a wider range of carriers.
Near the beginning of the report, Tutela shares some reflections on how the MVNO landscape is changing:
MVNOs and MNO flanker brands in the US carved out a niche largely serving the needs of lower-income customers or those with particular data needs…in 2019, the landscape is rapidly shifting. Technological advancements have made the barrier for operating some kind of network much lower; the entrance of cable companies into the market have pushed MVNO service into the more lucrative postpaid segment; and multi-network MVNOs are innovating on the network side of the equation, rather than solely differentiating on price or customer service.
The approach Tutela used to evaluate MVNOs was in line with its usual methodology. The company crowdsourced performance data from typical consumers with the help of code embedded in Tutela’s partners’ apps. In the new report, Tutela primarily considers how well MVNOs performed in regions where at least three of the big four networks offer coverage. Tutela calls these core coverage areas.
Within core coverage areas, Tutela calculates the amount of time subscribers have service that exceeds two different quality thresholds. When service exceeds the “excellent” threshold, subscribers should be able to do highly demanding things like streaming high-definition video or downloading large files quickly. When service exceeds the “core” threshold, subscribers should be able to carry out typical activities like browsing or streaming music without trouble, but performance issues may be encountered with demanding activities.
Here’s Tutela’s visualization of the main results:
A chart of median download speeds shows a similar ranking among carriers:
The results aren’t too surprising. Verizon MVNOs come out near the top of the hierarchy, while Sprint MVNOs tend to come out near the bottom. Cricket Wireless has a good score for the core threshold but does poorly in terms of the excellent threshold. That outcome makes sense since Cricket throttles maximum speeds.
Possible selection bias
I often write about how assessments of network performance that use crowdsourced data may be vulnerable to selection bias. These results from Tutela are no exception. In particular, I wonder if the results are skewed based on how high-quality phones used with different carriers tend to be. In general, newer or more expensive phones have better network hardware than older or cheaper phones.
Xfinity Mobile takes the top spot in the rankings. Xfinity Mobile is a new-ish carrier and is restrictive about which phones are eligible for use with the service. I would guess the average phone used with Xfinity Mobile is a whole lot newer and more valuable than the average phone used with TracFone. Similar arguments could be made for why Spectrum or Google Fi may have an advantage.
To Tutela’s credit, the company acknowledges the possibility of selection bias in at least one case:
The second factor explaining Google Fi’s performance compared to Metro or Boost is the device breakdown. Although a broad range of Android and iOS devices work with Google Fi’s service, the network is targeted most heavily at owners of Google’s own Pixel devices…The Pixel devices use top-of-the-line cellular modems, which intrinsically provide a better cellular experience than older or mid-range devices.
Several MVNOs offer access to Wi-Fi hotspots in addition to cellular networks. I’ve been curious how much data carriers send over Wi-Fi, and Tutela’s results give an estimate. While Xfinity Mobile appears to have sent the largest share of its data via hotspots, it’s a smaller share than I expected:
Tutela data suggests that Xfinity Mobile has already succeeded in offloading over 6% of smartphone data traffic onto its Wi-Fi network – far more than any other network.
Tutela also shares a graph comparing hotspot usage among different carriers:
There were a few other bits of the report that I found especially interesting. In one section, the report’s authors reflect on the fast growth of MVNOs run by cable companies:
Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile captured nearly 50% of the postpaid subscriber growth in Q2 2019, and combined added nearly as many postpaid subscribers as host network Verizon.
In another part of the report, Tutela shares a map displaying the most common host network that Google Fi subscribers access. It looks like there are a decent number of areas where Sprint or U.S. Cellular provide the primary host network:
AT&T has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and agreed to pay out $60 million to current and past customers that may have been affected by misleading claims about unlimited data. The settlement is in response to the FTC’s 2014 accustation that AT&T failed to adequately disclose that customers on unlimited data plans could have their speeds throttled substantially. Here are a few bits from the 2014 FTC complaint:
The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company failed to adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video – become difficult or nearly impossible to use…AT&T’s marketing materials emphasized the ‘unlimited’ amount of data that would be available to consumers who signed up for its unlimited plans…AT&T, despite its unequivocal promises of unlimited data, began throttling data speeds in 2011 for its unlimited data plan customers after they used as little as 2 gigabytes of data in a billing period. According to the complaint, the throttling program has been severe, often resulting in speed reductions of 80 to 90 percent for affected users. Thus far, according to the FTC, AT&T has throttled at least 3.5 million unique customers a total of more than 25 million times…consumers in AT&T focus groups strongly objected to the idea of a throttling program and felt ‘unlimited should mean unlimited.’
Here’s an excerpt from the FTC’s press release from today (emphasis mine):
As part of the settlement, AT&T is prohibited from making any representation about the speed or amount of its mobile data, including that it is “unlimited,” without disclosing any material restrictions on the speed or amount of data. The disclosures need to be prominent, not buried in fine print or hidden behind hyperlinks. For example, if an AT&T website advertises a data plan as unlimited, but AT&T may slow speeds after consumers reach a certain data cap, AT&T must prominently and clearly disclose those restrictions.
I’m glad to see the FTC cracking down on misleading practices. Bogus “unlimited” plans seem to be much more common today than they were in 2014.
The Verizon flanker brand, Visible, just launched what it calls Party Pay. With Party Pay, groups of up to four people can get discounts on their service while still maintaining their own, separate billing.
Previously, Visible offered only one plan. For $40 per month, subscribers could get unlimited minutes, texts, and data over Verizon’s network. Visible has a few limitations: hotspot speeds are throttled, a limited set of devices are compatible, and subscribers have low priority during periods of network congestion. Still, at $40 per month, Visible was offering a good price for an unlimited plan that ran over Verizon’s network. Today, Visible’s pricing got a lot better. With Party Pay, subscribers now pay a per-line rate determined by how many people are in their party:
1 person: $40 per month
2 people: $35 per month
3 people: $30 per month
4 people: $25 per month
Party pay is not a traditional family plan. Visible doesn’t require that users be family members or even know each other in real life:
If you’re already active on Visible, get a party link from a loved/liked/iffy-about one, or an internet stranger. Click the link, and ask to join the party.
If you want to, it’s possible to treat Party Pay like a family plan—though it might take a bit of work. Here’s what a Visible employee on Reddit suggests:
How can I pay for everyone in my party (like a family plan)?
Easiest way to do this is just adding the same payment info to all the accounts you want to pay for and turn on Autopay.
Parties don’t have a manager. Anyone in a party that is not full can invite others, approve requests from people wanting to join, or choose to leave a party. It is not possible to kick another member out of a party.
If a subscriber leaves a party, Visible’s rates for those still in the party will adjust accordingly. Here are excerpts from Visible’s FAQ explaining the process:
If one of my party members miss a payment or leaves the party, what happens? When someone misses a payment or lapses service, pauses service without billing, cancels their account, ports out and leaves Visible, they are removed from the party. When that happens the party membership changes and Visible monthly service amount changes based on the number of members in the party.
If one of my party members leaves the party, what happens? They are removed from the party. When that happens Visible monthly service amount changes for the remaining members based on the number of members still in the party at the time the next bill is created [or something to this effect].
At $25 per person for an unlimited plan over Verizon’s network, Visible’s Party Play is hard to beat in price. That said, it may not be for everyone. A fair number of subscribers have reported issues with aspects of Visible’s service (see my full review).
With the introduction of Party Play, Visible made a few other changes. New customers now get their first month of service for $25 regardless of their party size. Additionally, the Visible referral program is being phased out. Existing subscribers will keep their bill credits for past referrals, but Visible won’t continue to give referral codes to new customers.
Feel free to leave invitation links for your party in the comments (but check if another commenter has open spaces in their party first).
One of my recent posts about Xfinity Mobile received a comment on Reddit that got me thinking:
While Xfinity does have decent options (especially if you don’t need too much data) – it isn’t necessarily very different from other MVNO’s.
Let’s dive into that. It’s not always possible to make apples-to-apples comparisons among carriers since each carrier has its own way of structuring plans. Still, I’ll try my best to compare Xfinity Mobile’s prices to the best deals available from Verizon and other carriers that use Verizon’s network.
Low data use
Both the commenter and I think Xfinity Mobile may be a good option for people who don’t use a lot of data. For a base price of $12 per line, Xfinity Mobile offers a 5-line plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data. In comparison, a postpaid Verizon plan with 8GB of shared data, unlimited minutes, and unlimited talk would have a base price of $34 per line. It’s harder to make a close comparison with Verizon’s prepaid plans. 5 lines with 1GB of data each, unlimited talk, and unlimited text would have a base price of $30 per line. For 6GB of data on each line, the cost would be $32 per line.
If we look at individual plans rather than family plans, Xfinity Mobile still looks like a winner, but the competition is tighter. 2GB of data, unlimited talk, and unlimited text has a base price of only $24 per month with Xfinity. Verizon prepaid charges a base price of $30 for a plan with only 1GB. Verizon postpaid is a whole lot more expensive for a comparable plan. However, some Verizon MVNOs have similar prices. BOOM! offers 2GB of data, unlimited talk, and unlimited texts for under $30 per month. TotalWireless offers 5GB of data for a base price of about $33. Red Pocket offers 3GB of data for about $30.
Heavy data use
For heavy data use, Xfinity Mobile subscribers will probably want to turn to the carrier’s unlimited plans. These plans have a base price of $45 per line each month. At this point, Xfinity Mobile is no longer a clear winner, especially on family plans. With 5 lines on Verizon’s postpaid Start Unlimited plan, there is a base price of $30 per month. However, a single start unlimited line has a base price of $70, still a much higher rate than Xfinity charges. Visible, a flanker brand run by Verizon, offers unlimited plans for only $40 per month. Verizon MVNO TotalWireless has excellent prices on high-data allotment family plans. For example, 4 lines with 100GB of shared data come with a base price of about $24 per line.
Xfinity Mobile has extremely competitive prices for those who want service over Verizon’s network, don’t use a lot of data, and don’t mind being more tightly tied to other Xfinity services. For those who use moderate or large amounts of data (especially on family plans) Xfinity Mobile faces plenty of competition.
Xfinity Mobile has a bring your own device (BYOD) program, but only a handful of devices are eligible for the program.
BYOD-eligible Apple iPhone devices
The iPhone 6 and more recent Apple devices are likely to be eligible if they’re unlocked. However, iPhone models sold by certain carriers or in some regions of the world may still be ineligible. Xfinity’s online tool can be used to verify a specific device’s compatibility.
BYOD-eligible Android devices
Only a small number of Android phones are officially compatible with Xfinity Mobile. At the moment, all of the compatible Android phones are Samsung Galaxy devices:
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9+
Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Samsung Galaxy S10e
Samsung Galaxy Note8
Samsung Galaxy Note9
Most models of these devices will be compatible with Xfinity Mobile if they’re unlocked and were sold in the U.S. I still suggest confirming compatibility on Xfinity’s website.
Official details about devices Xfinity Mobile permits are shared in the carrier’s FAQ. Xfinity Mobile has expressed an intention to expand the number of devices on its Android BYOD list in the future:
Right now, not all Android devices are compatible with Xfinity Mobile, but we’re working behind the scenes on making this possible in the near future.
I hope Xfinity Mobile aggressively opens up its Android BYOD program soon, but I’m not sure it will happen. Here’s an excerpt from a complaint posted by a Reddit user in early 2019:
[Xfinity Mobile] promised that it [Android BYOD] was coming over and over and here we are over a year later and still nothing… We did finally get iPhone byop but not a peep about android. I feel a little lied to.
Xfinity finally started to offer limited Android BYOD support in July of this year. Since the beginning of the BYOD program, Xfinity has expanded its initial list of supported devices to include the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10e.
Comcast’s cellular brand, Xfinity Mobile, appears awfully well priced. Somehow, Xfinity Mobile offers service over Verizon’s extensive network without the usual price tag. Unlimited minutes and texts are included for free in all of Xfinity Mobile’s plans. Subscribers just pay for data, and rates for data are reasonable. For $45 per month, a subscriber can get unlimited data. Alternatively, subscribers can purchase a set amount of data and share it among up to five lines:
1GB data – $12 per month
3GB data – $30 per month
10GB data – $60 per month
A family could get five lines of service with 10GB of shared data, unlimited minutes, and unlimited texts for a base price of only $12 per line. Purchasing a comparable family plan from Verizon would be far more expensive. Even other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that run over Verizon’s network charge far more for similar plans. Why is Xfinity Mobile so cheap?
Lock-in with other Xfinity services
Only customers with active Xfinity internet service are eligible to sign up for Xfinity Mobile. Some people who would have used internet service providers other than Xfinity may now choose Xfinity internet so that they can sign up for Xfinity Mobile. Similarly, potential fees incentivize Xfinity Mobile customers not to cancel other Xfinity services:
$20 per line monthly charge applies if at least one of the following post-pay subscriptions are not maintained on the account: Xfinity TV, Internet or Voice service.
Competitors threaten Comcast. Like Comcast, Verizon’s Fios offers bundled TV, internet, and home phone service. Emerging technologies like 5G fixed wireless may create viable alternatives to conventional cable companies. By bundling several services together, Xfinity may make it more difficult for consumers to switch to competitors’ services.
Favorable MVNO terms
Xfinity Mobile is relatively new, but it already has a huge number of subscribers. While the agreements between MVNOs like Xfinity Mobile and host operators like Verizon are generally private, my impression is that MVNOs with large subscriber bases often receive substantially better rates than MVNOs with small subscriber bases. Xfinity Mobile may, in part, be able to offer low prices because it gets unusually good rates on access to Verizon’s network.
While Xfinity Mobile’s service is well-priced today, it’s not guaranteed to stay that way forever. We’ve already seen one revamp in Xfinity Mobile’s price structure.
I haven’t seen Comcast executives explicitly explain their rationale for launching a mobile service, so all I can do is speculate. If you have other thoughts about Xfinity Mobile’s pricing strategy, please leave a comment!
Yesterday, Consumer Cellular announced an increase in the data allotments it offers at different price points. The table below outlines the changes:
Monthly data cost
I spoke with a Consumer Cellular support agent who confirmed that these changes would automatically affect existing customers. For example, a customer who was paying $10 per month for 2GB of data will now be allotted 3GB of data per month at no extra charge.
It’s great to see a carrier improving customers’ plans without charging more or requiring customers to proactively opt-in to the changes. In some ways, it’s a bold business move. Customers who were paying $30 per month for 10GB could now downgrade to the $20 per month price tier and still receive 10GB of data. That said, I don’t expect a lot of customers will actually downgrade in response to the new pricing structure.