Comcast is Going to Rearrange U.S. Mobile Operator Market Share

As competitive as the U.S. mobile market is, it is going to get worse. Comcast will be getting into the mobile business in 2017, using a “Wi-Fi-first” approach.

Speaking at an investor conference, CEO Brian Roberts said that by mid-2017 Comcast will launch a mobile service using Verizon wholesale services and Comcast’s own network of 15 million public Wi-Fi hotspots.

The only issue is which of the four biggest U.S. mobile firms will be hurt the most. Based only on share changes T-Mobile US has reported, AT&T and Sprint are probably the most exposed.

T-Mobile US says it has added--so far in the quarter--about 753,000 net new branded postpaid phone accounts and 650,000 prepaid net customer accounts in the third quarter 2016. At that rate, T-Mobile US will show growth for the quarter, year over year.

Adding some color, T-Mobile US says it gained more than 250,000 accounts from Verizon Wireless.

T-Mobile US gained about 400,000 accounts from AT&T and nearly 300,000 from Sprint.

If Comcast enters the market with a price-lead strategy--and most believe that is precisely what it will do--Comcast should pose the same “value-price” challenge T-Mobile US already does.

Comcast says it will concentrate first on selling mobile services to its own customers, essentially expanding its triple-play bundle to a quadruple-play bundle.

If Comcast enters the market with a price-lead strategy--and most believe that is precisely what it will do--Comcast should pose the same “value-price” challenge T-Mobile US already does.

In the first quarter of 2016, there were about 393 million mobile accounts in service, with Verizon having 138 million, AT&T 130.4 million, T-Mobile US 65.5 million and Sprint 58.8 million.

For the sake of argument, if Comcast were to grab about 10 percent share in the first couple of years, that would represent about 39 million accounts. Eventually, if Comcast gets 20 percent share, that implies something on the order of 79 million accounts.

You can make your own guesses about which competing mobile service providers will be hurt the most. But in the second quarter of 2016 Verizon had 35 percent share. AT&T had about 32.5 percent share. T-Mobile US had about 16 percent share, while Sprint had about 15 percent share. All other mobile suppliers collectively had about two percent share.

So Comcast initially will spend some time as provider number five. Eventually, Comcast could surpass T-Mobile US and Sprint.

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