Verizon Wireless, Comcast team up

Verizon Wireless, Comcast team up

July 14th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Jim Weigert, left, vice president and general manager for Comcast Chattanooga, has partnered with Verizon Wireless district manager Kelly Parks to offer a mix of wired and wireless services to Chattanooga area customers.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

A surprise awaits Verizon Wireless customers on their next visit to a retail location.

Verizon employees have begun to sell Comcast products and services, and will offer a gift card worth up to $300 for new sign-ups to either Comcast or Verizon.

The new spirit of cooperation between the two former competitors, both of which have fiercely advertised against each other in the past, stems from a joint venture between Verizon's wireless division and a number of national cable companies.

Verizon in late 2011 bought bandwidth from a handful of major cable interests - including Comcast - in return for joint marketing of television, phone and data services among Verizon and other cable providers.

The current deal is open only to new customers of either Comcast or Verizon.

But officials say it's just the initial step in a new partnership between the companies that could grow closer if customers approve of the pairing.

The goal is for Verizon Wireless and Comcast to promote each other's services at retail locations, online and over the phone, including offering bonuses on single-, double- and triple-play packages, officials say.

"Like anything with human beings, there's a learning curve, but we're getting up to speed and the Verizon people are great to be around," said Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager for Comcast Chattanooga.

Eventually, customers could sign up for Comcast's home security service at a Verizon mall kiosk while they upgrade to a new smartphone or tablet.

There are still a few bumps in the road ahead if regulators decide to intervene.

The Department of Justice could oppose the $3.6 billion joint venture, the Washington Post reported Friday. Regulators reportedly are worried that Verizon might eventually abandon its own version of Internet, TV and phone offerings if it also sells similar plans by Comcast and other cable TV providers.

In fact, Verizon already has announced a slowdown in construction of its FiOS system, when it ended its partnership with DirectTV in December 2011.

According to Verizon's labor union, the cable deal could cost 72,000 jobs if Verizon halts deployment of its FiOS network. That includes 18,754 jobs directly related to infrastructure build-outs, with the rest affected indirectly.

The estimate is based on a Communications Workers of America study that reasons that if completing the FiOS build out would create 72,000 jobs, stopping the build-out costs that same number.

Chattanooga, however, won't see much job fluctuation, corporate spokesmen say, because Verizon doesn't offer FiOS service here.

"It's not an issue for Chattanooga," Weigert said.

Kelly Parks, Verizon Wireless district manager for Southeast Tennessee, said that the deal is only between Comcast and Verizon Wireless, not its parent company, Verizon.

When combined, Comcast and Verizon Wireless offer consumers access to almost any type of content, in almost any location across the nation.

The deal will also double for each the number of retail locations, salespeople and product offerings.

"When you think of it as just the network between both companies, it's a powerhouse," said Parks. "Whether it's on our devices, sharing the content that Comcast has, or vice versa, customers from both sides can take advantage of it."

An internal team made up of Verizon and Comcast engineers already has been formed, Weigert said, to create products based on the new partnership.

"When you look at the trends of what people want to do, they want to watch things on the go," Weigert said.

Though there aren't any new products yet, engineers have created so-called "roadmaps" that detail the forthcoming fruits of the joint venture.

For the present, Comcast will emphasize the use of Verizon phones and tablets with its app offerings, including the upcoming Olympics app.