Comcast’s holiday gift to broadband users: a wireless gateway

Comcast (s CMCSA) is hoping to drive more broadband usage this holiday season, and it’s giving away free 802.11N wireless router to do so. The cable company announced Monday that new customers of its upper-tier broadband services will be provided with the new Xfinity Wireless Gateway, which combines a cable modem, WiFi router and voice-over-IP (VOIP) adaptor all in one box.

Customers need to sign up for Comcast’s Blast!, Extreme 50 or Extreme 105 broadband plans to qualify for the promotion, which means they will be signing up for broadband services that have at least 25 Mbps downstream. But those broadband bundles don’t come cheap — Blast starts at about $53 a month, with Extreme 105 broadband services costing an introductory $105 a month for the first 12 months. (Prices for Extreme 105 increase to $130-$150 after the first year.)

For Comcast, the wireless gateway promotion is aimed at reaching a growing number of connected devices that are popping up in the home, whether it be mobile handsets connected to the home network, tablets or even WiFi-enabled connected TVs and Blu-ray players. Standardizing all its customers on a single home gateway can also help reduce the number and severity of calls that come in from customers, some of whom are having problems with WiFi routers that they’ve purchased and installed themselves. Of course, Comcast isn’t the first operator to make home gateways available for free: AT&T (s T) has made free wireless gateways available as part of its bundles for years.

Cable operators are increasingly recognizing broadband — not TV — services as differentiators, and a number of them are experimenting with pitching high-speed Internet as their core service offering. As more service providers approach the industry from a broadband-first perspective, we expect more deals like Comcast’s free wireless gateway as a way to make it easier for them to sign up for Internet services.