Comcast's 'Voice 2go' Wi-Fi calling service takes aim at carriers, Skype
May 23, 2012 — 10:39am ET | By Phil Goldstein
Comcast's new "Voice 2go" service for its Xfinity Voice home phone customers, which enables subscribers to make calls and send texts via Wi-Fi networks, has the potential to undercut revenues from wireless carriers as well as services like Google Voice and Skype.
The service enables customers to make calls and send texts for free within a Wi-Fi network using their home phone number and Comcast's Xfinity Connect Mobile app for iOS and Android. The MSO said also said that calls can be made using a 4G or 3G wireless data plan and won't use wireless minutes. Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the company has 9.5 million Xfinity Voice customers.
Comcast also announced recently that customers can send and receive text messages domestically and internationally to more than 40 countries, including Canada, Brazil, China and, soon, Mexico. The company also announced "person Phone Numbers," which is essentially a virtual number not tied to a customer's primary Xfinity Voice number and can be assigned to up to four family members. Personal Phone Numbers work within the Xfinity Connect Mobile app, allowing users to make calls and texts for free when on a Wi-Fi network.
The Wi-Fi calling feature come shortly after Comcast, along with Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, announced they will allow subscribers to freely roam across their respective public Wi-Fi networks. The companies said they will create a new network name, "CableWiFi," for subscribers to use when accessing the Wi-Fi hotspots. The network will give subscribers free access to 50,000 hotspots that the companies collectively own.
Wi-Fi calling is, of course, nothing new. T-Mobile USA has been a proponent of the calling feature for years, as have multiple companies and VoIP-based apps. Some operators have embraced the method, and vendors are willing to oblige. In February, for example, Kineto Wireless rolled out a "Smart VoIP" app that allows mobile operators to offer an over-the-top voice service through their existing network infrastructure.
At the same time Comcast is rolling out services that could cut into the voice, SMS and data revenues of wireless carriers, the MSO is also partnering with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Under their agreement, the companies are allowed to resell each other's service. The deal is one aspect of a series of agreements Verizon has made with Comcast, Time warner, Cox and Bright House, the primary thrust of which is Verizon's proposed $3.9 billion purchase of AWS spectrum from the cable companies.