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Summary:

Comcast today reported fourth-quarter and 2009 earnings that showed remarkable subscriber growth in a down economy. But this year could be a turning point for Comcast, which has laid the groundwork for fast, ubiquitous broadband while also trying to avoid becoming a dumb pipe.

Comcast today reported fourth-quarter and 2009 earnings that showed remarkable subscriber growth against the backdrop of such a down economy. More telling, however, are the three big forward-looking strategic initiatives the cable operator plans to focus on this year: expanding its mobile broadband offering through Clearwire, deploying some type of interactive advertising and signing up carrier customers for mobile backahul. It will also complete the rollout of its DOCSIS 3.0 broadband, which can deliver speeds of up to 50 Mbps; expand its TV everywhere product, Xfinity; and attempt to close the joint venture with GE over NBC Universal.

Essentially Comcast, which is about to finish laying the groundwork for a fast wired network, is focused on reaping the benefits of mobile broadband. Along the way it will also use Xfinity, the NBC-Universal deal and interactive advertising as a means to forestall becoming a dumb pipe for users. I have no idea if all of those efforts will succeed, but I applaud it for looking ahead and seeing the future of ubiquitous and fast broadband as a necessary platform in a way some of its rivals may not.

Its priorities reflect the growing awareness of a converged communications world. It’s attempting to provide the underlying infrastructure of fixed and mobile broadband as a bundle for the consumer as well as find ways to monetize and control the content running over those pipes in a way that won’t draw an outcry from consumers or regulators. However, regulators are already scrutinizing Comcast’s control of NBC-Universal and will likely spend some time on Xfinity as well.

But if we step back and look at the big picture, it’s clear that Comcast understands both the opportunity and the threat that ubiquitous broadband presents to its business. For Comcast, 2010 is when it will finish laying the groundwork for delivering ubiquitous broadband, and when it will build up the arsenal of tools to answer the threat that an all-IP network represents to its core video delivery business.



Related GigaOM Pro content (subscription required):

A Closer Look at Comcast’s NBC Universal Acquisition

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