Wall Street seems to have a good vibe about Comcast's new wireless venture.
Two reasons: Comcast is keeping costs low and testing the wireless market instead of jumping in head first. And the company's legacy cable business continues to show signs of momentum, which can only boost Xfinity Mobile.
"It's inevitable," John Hodulik, telecom analyst with UBS AG, said of Comcast's reentry into the wireless business. "We see wireless as a central component to the cable offering of the future, and Comcast is putting its toe in the water and entering in a measured way."
On Thursday, the cable giant announced the soft launch of Xfinity Mobile — the phones and service will be first offered over the next few weeks to Comcast employees and then to consumers by June 30 — in a subdued press conference at NBC headquarters at 30 Rock. The company's share price jumped about 2 percent.
Then on Friday, telecom analyst Tom Eagan of Telsey Advisory Group raised his forecast for Comcast stock by $2 to $44, saying, "We believe this initiative is a low-cost and low-risk way to enter the mobile market." (Comcast shares fell 10 cents, to close at $38.03, on Friday.)
Mike Cavanagh, Comcast's chief financial officer and a former New York banker, said at the press conference that Xfinity Mobile would have lean economics and could be profitable with about 1 million phone subscribers — a small number given the giant size of the wireless market in the United States and Comcast's potential customer base.
Comcast will market Xfinity Mobile directly to about 29 million of its Xfinity TV and Xfinity Internet customers.
Xfinity Mobile, at least in this early stage, will be "capex-light" — or require virtually no big investment into new wireless equipment or spectrum — because Comcast will be reselling Verizon Communications Inc.'s network capacity and offloading data traffic onto the already-built-out Comcast WiFi network, Cavanagh added.
As for marketing Xfinity Mobile, Comcast has no plans to staff or lease new retail stores because the phones will be stocked and sold in the 500 existing Comcast cable stores and online, said Greg Butz, Comcast Mobile president.
Xfinity Mobile marketing also will be folded into Comcast's already-giant $3.4 billion ad and promotions budget, avoiding a bump in advertising costs, Butz said.
One of the subthemes of the 30 Rock press conference was the comments about the current state of Comcast's cable and internet businesses by company executives, including new cable division head Dave Watson. A word that popped up repeatedly: "momentum."
Coming only days after the close of the first quarter, analysts could presume that Comcast's trends from 2016 — the company added cable-TV subscribers for the first time in a decade and boosted high-speed internet business by over a million customers — spilled into the new year.