Comcast's Wireless Plans Don't Include TV on Phones

comcast “Comcast Plans to Bring TV Shows to Your Phone,” a Reuters story trumpeted yesterday, which had many of us here at GigaOM really excited — me especially, since this is exactly the sort of thing that I’ve said the cable guys should be doing if they want to launch wireless products. However, a quick look at the transcript of the executive comments that prompted the Reuters story shows that Comcast (s cscma) isn’t bringing TV to wireless phones anytime soon. Nor is voice of interest when it comes to the cable provider’s wireless efforts, as the Reuters story also stated. So far Comcast’s wireless plans are centered around delivering data, mostly to mobile computers.

According to a transcript of Comcast Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference, he said:

As you know, we are launching — we are testing today a service called On Demand Online. I can envision some point in the future that having a wireless component. And there has been lots of discussion about voice clients at some point and I don’t want to say much more than that, but I think that data is really an important product for us to lead in the wireless side.

The Reuters’ article turned that answer into:

Leading U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp. said on Wednesday it plans to offer subscribers the option to watch their favorite TV shows on mobile devices through its new wireless Internet service. The company is also exploring adding a voice option to the wireless package that would put it in more direct competition with mobile phone providers like AT&T Inc  and Verizon Communications Inc.

Angelakis talked a lot about the cable operator’s investment with Clearwire and its wireless product, which is based on the WiMAX network Clearwire (s clwr) is launching in the U.S., but his comments focused primarily on providing mobile broadband to laptops and notebooks for folks on the go. That offering is proving to be a popular one, as 30-35 percent of people signing up in the two markets that Comcast has launched in are new customers.

As for voice and the obvious vehicle for it — phones — Angelakis said:

We are a holder of some AWS spectrum, so we could actually build a network. The conclusion was we have 20 megahertz of spectrum, clearly not enough to do what we really want to do. We don’t want to be the seventh competitor in a market that we think is mature from the voice side and it’s a huge economic investment which we are uncomfortable there is a real return for…The other option is do you want to purchase a company? And I didn’t think we have any desire to purchase a wireless company.

So clearly phones and voice aren’t in the cards, which means delivering TV to phones as part of a Comcast-specific wireless effort isn’t happening anytime soon. Delivering TV to computers connected to the Clearwire network seems like a possibility, but there are licensing, authentication and other issues to work out — not that Comcast isn’t tackling those.  As for the latter part of Angelakis’ comments, the unwillingness of Comcast to buy a wireless company is a real shame given that we think it should buy Sprint (s S).

Bonus Link: The transcript of the Angelakis talk.