Updated from 11:40 a.m. with additional information.
Comcast (CMCSA) on Thursday outlined its plan to break into the mobile phone market business through a partnership with Verizon (VZ) . The cable operator, which had indicated last year that the service would begin in 2017, touted the combination of Verizon's 4G network with its 16 million WiFi hotspots and the latest phones from Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF) .
"We get it," said David Watson, the CEO of Comcast's cable business. "Wireless is a very hyper-competitive marketplace." Wireless will support the cable business, he said. Comcast expects to make money on wireless, but Watson said the company will measure success by customer loyalty and retention.
Customers of Comcast's premier cable and broadband services will pay $45 per month for its Xfinity Mobile phone and unlimited data packages. Verizon recently introduced its own unlimited wireless data plans for $80 a month. Comcast customers with less-expensive broadband packages will pay $65 per month for unlimited mobile plans, while other customers can pay $12 per gigabyte of data per month.
The company said the new service will launch sometime in the second quarter and will be preceded by an employee trial.
Comcast's wireless ambitions have been the subject of great speculation with recent years, with the options ranging from a gradual roll-out of the Verizon partnership to a bolder alternative such as acquiring T-Mobile USA (TMUS) or Sprint (S) .
For now at least, Comcast is taking the more cautious route. "The strategic/financial rationale was clear: protect their core cable business rather than compete with the Big-4 [wireless carriers]," Macquarie analyst Amy Yong wrote in a Thursday report.
Comcast has staked out a conservative approach that involved slowly growing the wireless base by selling to its cable and broadband subscribers, which Yong described as a "crawl, walk, and run," approach. "In our view, this approach diminishes the likelihood of a wireless acquisition near term," she noted.