Report: Cable Drives U.S. Broadband Penetration

June 2, 2016
According to Strategy Analytics, U.S. cable operators, including Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), are ...

According to Strategy Analytics, U.S. cable operators, including Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), are reaping the benefits of a growing broadband market. Cable operators added 3.3 million new subscribers in the 12 months from April 2015 through March 2016, helping drive total fixed broadband household penetration to nearly 80%. Cable's market share in broadband subscriptions has increased to more than 62%, with fiber remaining flat at 23% and DSL declining to 15% of U.S. subscriptions.

The research house says the top 19 tracked operators in the United States saw strong growth continue into the first quarter of 2016, with more than 1 million new subscribers added during the period. AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) continued to face challenges, as Verizon lost 10,000 subscribers and AT&T added only 5,000.

"The reality is, fixed broadband is continuing to grow in the U.S., and not being replaced by mobile broadband as some have reported," said Jason Blackwell, director of the Service Provider Strategies service (SPS) at Strategy Analytics. "The cable operators are driving the growth with increased speeds and multiplay bundles. During 2015, Comcast accounted for 44% of new subscribers, and the companies forming the New Charter made up another 47% of new subscribers. The telco operators haven't been able to shake off the losses of DSL subscribers, but we expect to see increased fiber deployments in the coming quarters, which should help AT&T and Verizon return to growth."

While mobile broadband is not yet replacing fixed services, WiFi is playing an important role in the future plans of service providers. Cable operators have rolled out WiFi networks as part of their mobility strategy, and these deployments will continue to grow. Charter has pledged to deploy an additional 300,000 hotspots as a condition of the recently closed merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

"WiFi will allow cable operators to more effectively compete for quad-play customers without the expense of creating and managing a mobile network," Blackwell said. "Combined with MVNO relationships, WiFi can create a compelling service offer, making the cable companies more competitive with the traditional mobile operators."

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