Update: Comcast Is Serious About Wireless

Hot on the heels of a report that Comcast will no longer offer Sprint’s wireless service through Pivot, GigaOM has learned that the cable company is creating its own wireless division and has hired the former CTO of Telefonica O2 Europe, Dave Williams, as the unit’s CTO SVP of wireless and technology strategy to “explore wireless options” for Comcast, according to the company. Williams apparently took on the role earlier this month, although no announcement has been made to that effect and Comcast has not responded to a request for comment.

Williams has worked in wireless for several years. Prior to his role at Telefonica he was the VP for strategic planning at Cingular Wireless, a position he rose to in the wake of the SBC Wireless-BellSouth Cellular merger. Before the merger he was in charge of technological operations for the Western region of SBC Wireless and helped integrate the company into the Pacific Bell Mobile network, which he had also helped create.

The nation’s largest cable company appears to be pulling together all the ingredients necessary for the quadruple play of bundled communications services: video, voice, data and wireless. Verizon and AT&T both offer subscribers a quadruple-play plan in certain geographic areas, and cable providers are working to keep up with the Bells. A recent survey from Compete and Fierce Wireless concluded that consumers are ready to purchase wireless service as part of a bundle and are willing to purchase it from a wireline carrier or a cable provider.

A possible route for a true quad-play service from Comcast would be some type of deal with Sprint and Clearwire over WiMAX, which has been rumored for a while. Comcast didn’t participate in the recent 700MHz auction, so if it is getting out of its partnership with Pivot (apparently customer demand hasn’t been all that exciting), it will have to find some way of offering wireless. A WiMAX joint venture, a buyout of Sprint or T-Mobile, or perhaps some crazy satellite scheme could justify the creation of wireless division at Comcast be some of the “options” Comcast is exploring. Because at the end of the day, a company doesn’t hire someone with Williams’ experience building and managing networks to resell wireless service from a separate provider.

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