Comcast Corp.’s wireless business signed up a record number of customers during the first quarter this year, breaking even for the first time since being launched four years ago.
The Philadelphia cable giant said Thursday that it collected $3.3 billion in net income during the three-month period that ended in March, up 55% from the same period last year. The company’s revenue increased 2.2% to $27.2 billion.
Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile business signed up 278,000 wireless phone customers, bringing its total to 3.1 million lines. That’s still a sliver of the U.S. wireless market, but Comcast is aiming to lure more customers with industry-low prices. Earlier in April, the company cut rates for 5G unlimited plans to make them cheaper or on par with competitors Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
The company broke even on wireless before launching the new prices. Revenue from Xfinity Mobile rose 49.7% year-over-year to $513 million from January through March. Comcast officials have forecast that wireless will become profitable this year, with CEO Brian Roberts calling wireless a “strategic priority” in January.
Xfinity Mobile, which operates on Verizon’s network, is available only for existing internet customers, a way to retain highly profitable broadband subscribers. Comcast’s cable unit signed up 380,000 new customers, also a record for a first quarter. Revenues at the cable division were up 5.9%, to 15.8 billion.
Comcast’s new wireless pricing tackles what has been a major weakness for the cable industry, said analyst Craig Moffett, of the New York research firm MoffettNathanson. Previously, cable companies weren’t price competitive for families with more than two lines, he wrote in a recent note to clients.
Launched in 2017, Xfinity Mobile now sells a single unlimited line for $45 a month, with the rate dropping to $30 a line for four lines. Direct comparisons are difficult because firms bundle other services, but Comcast’s $30 rate for four lines is lower than the $35 starting cost offered by Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile sells four unlimited lines for $31.25 each, though customers can get a $5 discount if they enroll in autopay.
With Xfinity Mobile’s aggressive pricing, faster revenue growth, and a path to profitability, “there is an increasingly credible argument that wireless really can become a meaningful part of the story,” Moffett wrote Thursday.
Xfinity Mobile’s 3.1 million lines is still a small fraction of the wireless market. By comparison, AT&T had more than 182.6 million wireless subscribers at the end of 2020, according to data compiled by MoffetNathanson. Verizon had 163.8 million lines in service as of last year.
At NBCUniversal, revenues were down 9.1% to $7 billion as theme parks continued to take a hit from the pandemic. Sky, Comcast’s U.K.-based pay-TV provider, saw revenues rise 2% to nearly $5 billion.
“Across all parts of the company, our teams are executing at a high level and collaborating to drive growth and innovation, and I couldn’t be more excited about our future,” Roberts said in a statement.