Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US), the biggest U.S. cable carrier, will let home-phone customers make calls using iPads, smartphones and other mobile devices anywhere they have Internet access, intensifying competition with wireless carriers.
Using a Comcast application, customers can make and receive calls from those devices when they’re connected to the Web via a Wi-Fi hot spot or a wireless data plan, Philadelphia-based Comcast said today in a statement. There is no extra charge for the calls, which are connected to the customer’s home-phone number. The service is only available to subscribers buying Comcast voice and broadband.
Comcast, which provides TV, land-line phone and Internet service, is expanding beyond the home to fend off phone companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) and AT&T Inc. (T:US), which are offering broadband and wireless-Internet service that could replace the need for a cable subscription.
“We’re bringing customers features they otherwise would have thought they’d only get from their mobile providers,” Comcast Executive Vice President Cathy Avgiris said.
The new Comcast feature, called Voice 2go, will allow customers to make calls using free Wi-Fi networks in parks and cafes or a wireless-data connection from a phone company. The service competes against wireless carriers’ voice plans, which typically start at $39.99 a month, as well as Internet-calling services such as Skype.
Comcast rose (CMCSA:US) 0.9 percent to $28.96 at the close in New York and has advanced 22 percent this year. AT&T fell 0.3 percent to $33.54 and Verizon gained 0.1 percent to $41.39.
The application lets Comcast phone customers forward calls from their home numbers to mobile devices, and calls can be received as long as the device is connected to the Internet. Subscribers can limit incoming calls by accepting only those from specific phone numbers, Avgiris said.
Comcast added a net of 164,000 phone customers in the first quarter, less than analysts’ average estimate of 187,000. The new mobility features show how customers can benefit from Comcast’s voice product even if the popularity of land-line phone service slows, Avgiris said.
Yesterday, Comcast said it is teaming up with other large U.S. cable companies to create a nationwide network of more than 50,000 Wi-Fi hot spots.
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