Cable operators, not wireless holding back FTTH: Strategy Analytics

U.S. cable operators have effectively used their hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks to increase market share at the expense of telco competitors, according to a new report by Strategy Analytics. The market research firm says that the percentage of total fixed broadband subscribers fiber to the home (FTTH) networks serve has remained flat for the past year. That leaves DSL networks to take the brunt of the cable operators' share gains.

U.S. cable operators have effectively used their hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks to increase market share at the expense of telco competitors, according to a new report by Strategy Analytics. The market research firm says that the percentage of total fixed broadband subscribers fiber to the home (FTTH) networks serve has remained flat for the past year. That leaves DSL networks to take the brunt of the cable operators' share gains.

According to the Strategy Analytics Service Provider Strategies (SPS) service report, "US Cable Operators Driving Fixed Broadband Penetration Higher," cable operators such as Comcast and Charter added 3.3 million new subscribers in the 12 months from April 2015 through March 2016. FTTH subscribers held steady at 23%, but DSL numbers decline to 15%.

While the majority of cable operators deploy FTTH in greenfield applications (and thus contributed to the technology's ability to tread water in the research period), HFC remains the predominant network architecture for such service providers.

Overall, fixed broadband numbers grew over the 12-month period, with household penetration reaching nearly 80%. The top 19 U.S. operators of all types added a combined 1 million such subscribers in the first quarter of this year.

"The reality is, fixed broadband is continuing to grow in the US, 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."

Verizon lost 10,000 subscribers over the research period, while AT&T added only 5,000.

While 5G remains more of a looming threat than a current one, wireless does play a strong role in cable operator broadband strategies, according to Strategy Analytics. This is particularly true of WiFi.

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

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