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Comcast officially a cellular service provider

After years of speculation and anticipation, Comcast Corp.'s wireless service finally made its debut April 6.

Dubbed Xfinity Mobile, the service comes with up to five lines when it is added to a customer's Xfinity Internet service, with unlimited talk and text and the first 100 MB of shared 4G LTE data included. Customers can then choose between different data plans. The first is a monthly unlimited plan that costs $65 per line on up to five lines, or $45 per line for customers with top X1 packages. The second option charges by usage, costing $12 per gigabyte of cellular data across all lines on an account each month.

Comcast noted that users can switch between the data plans at no cost, depending on how much data they use.

The news was a long time in the making. Comcast first confirmed in October 2015 that it had triggered its mobile virtual network operator agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. Subsequently, it became clear that the company planned to leverage its millions of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots and home networks for the base of its wireless service, while relying on Verizon's MVNO agreement to fill in the gaps. Charter Communications LLC also activated its Verizon MVNO pact.

MVNOs have not historically prospered in the U.S., and there is a long line of failed services such as Amp'd Mobile and Helio. While there are myriad reasons for this, including the expense of handsets and unfavorable economics, Comcast's MVNO is somewhat different from those past models given the company's reliance on its fixed Wi-Fi structure.

Citing data from the NPD Group, Comcast noted that up to 80% of smartphone data traffic in the U.S. travels over Wi-Fi, not cellular networks. According to the company, this makes "Wi-Fi a key solution to today's mobile data consumption."

Comcast said Xfinity Mobile users can choose from a range of devices, including Apple Inc.'s iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE. Xfinity Mobile will also work on devices from Samsung Group and LG.