Comcast stopped short of hiring the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to announce that it is now the nation’s fourth largest telephone company, although the way the top MSO embraced the showbiz atmosphere of CES, it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise to see scantily clad pom-pom twirlers reading press releases.

The Philadelphia mega-company put out a quiet little understated news release – "MOVE OVER BELLS: COMCAST CORPORATION BECOMES THE FOURTH-LARGEST PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER IN THE U.S." – to note that its 4.1 million subscribers (out of a potential universe of 40 million) now put it behind only iconic AT&T, Verizon and ever-popular Qwest in the hearts, minds and monthly bills of American consumers.

"This is an announcement that comes a little less than three years after the first commercial launch of our product," said Cathy Avgiris, senior vice president and general manager-voice services at Comcast, who took time from the CES hype to talk about 2008 voice plans. "Our service is resonating with customers, (and) we’re really basically reinventing how consumers think about their home phone service."

Comcast’s home phone service looks more like advanced mobile phone service than traditional wireline phone – without, of course, the mobility since Comcast, unlike Verizon and AT&T, sold off its wireless business to Cingular years ago.

Among the phone items the cable company will hype in 2008 are "universal caller ID" which puts a phone number on the TV, the PC or, of course, the phone, and a Comcast Web site where consumers can control all their Comcast-enabled devices. Retailing phones Users will even be able to go to retail outlets and buy a Comcast phone – the so-called enhanced cordless phone – that will provide a Web interface for a viewable voice mail on the phone’s screen, weather updates, a Yellow Pages search and a universal address book that syncs automatically with the PC.

While all of this looks suspiciously like what consumers have been able to do with mobile phones for some time, it’s really "reinventing how consumers look at their home phone service," Avgiris said. "You never would have thought about getting e-mail on your home phone or having Yellow Pages search function for the local pizza shop easily available to you on your home phone with location and the option to save the phone number into your address book."

True enough, not with the home phone. But the mobile phone ….

"While mobile communications are increasing, there’s still probably close to 90 percent of the households in the U.S. who have landline phone service," Avgiris argued. "It’s a huge opportunity for us, and one we’re looking to take advantage of."

Or, more correctly, one that will take advantage of what Comcast has to offer.

"It’s all about our network, our platform, being one of the most fiber-rich in the United States, 40 million households that we can serve, and we want to provide the best experience for consumers in the home across every product and device that they have in the home," she said.

– Jim Barthold

The Daily


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