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Comparing broadband pricing: where do AT&T, Verizon, Cincinnati Bell and others stand?

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By Sean Buckley, with Samantha Bookman

Broadband price comparison

(Image source: iStockPhoto)

How different are broadband subscription prices among U.S. wireline providers? With the continuing competitive challenges brought by cable operators, a key metric of choice among telcos like AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other independent incumbents is in how they price their services.

We noticed two key pricing trend differences in developing our report. First, there is a noticeable gap between what a telco charges for DSL versus fiber to the home (FTTH) services.

Verizon, for example, charges $74.99 for its 15/5 Mbps FiOS offering without a contract, while a standard DSL package with speeds from 1-15 Mbps is $29.99. One thing that has caused ire for new Verizon DSL customers is that they can no longer purchase standalone DSL service--they must bundle in phone service, even if they don't want it, from Verizon to get DSL.

Meantime, Cincinnati Bell (NYSE: CBB) DSL subscribers pay the same price--$29.99--for 5 Mbps service as FTTH subscribers receiving 10 Mbps service.

Between carriers, prices for the same speeds can vary wildly. Consumers who crave 300 Mbps download speeds in a Verizon FiOS service area will pay around $205 per month, while those in Lumos Networks' (Nasdaq: LMOS) serving area must shell out $750.

Second, bundles and contracts can affect broadband pricing.

All of the service providers in our report offer discounts if subscribers are willing to adhere to a contract and purchase a dual- or triple-play bundle. AT&T offers a triple play bundle with U-verse TV, its Max Plus 18 Mbps broadband tier, and a 250 minute wireline voice plan with 20 calling features for $109.99, while a standalone 18 Mbps offering costs $56 a month. Likewise, Verizon offers a FiOS bundle for $89.99 a month with a two-year contract.

In this report, we look at what are carriers charging their subscribers and how those rates differ from carrier to carrier. We compared the prices that each service provider is offering for either standalone DSL or FTTH service, and the length of time that these prices will remain constant.

Take a look at these ILEC broadband pricing metrics in charts below. The first chart lists pricing by each carrier for common broadband speeds. All speeds are for fiber-based broadband, purchased as a standalone service, unless otherwise noted. The remaining charts break out speed tiers and pricing for each carrier we studied in this report.

  3 Mbps 10 Mbps 25 Mbps 100 Mbps
AT&T $41 $51 (U-verse FTTN) $66 (U-verse FTTN)  
Verizon $29 (DSL) $49 $59 $129
CenturyLink   $50 (12 Mbps ADSL) $60 (20 Mbps FTTH)  
Windstream $50 (DSL)   $55  
Frontier   $55    
TDS Telecom $35 (DSL) $25 (FTTH)
$40 (DSL)
$30 (FTTH)
$34.95 (18-25 DSL)
 
FairPoint $36 (DSL)      
Consolidated   $30 (DSL)    
Cincinnati Bell   $30 (DSL) $39 $249
Lumos Networks   $55 $80 (30 Mbps) $380
HickoryTech $50 (DSL) $60 (DSL) $80 (20 Mbps)  
Shentel $40 (DSL) $60 (DSL)    
Hawaiian Telcom   $28 (11 Mbps) (DSL) $58  
All speeds are fiber except where noted. Prices rounded up to the nearest dollar.

And here are the details for each carrier:

AT&T continues to build out its fiber to the node (FTTN) based U-verse product, reporting 8 million subscribers in Q4 2012. The provider sees a much higher ARPU from its U-verse base: $170 versus $105.63 from its approximately 8.8 million DSL subscribers.
U-verse
Max Turbo  24 Mbps $66
Max Plus 18 Mbps   $56
Max  12 Mbps $51
Elite 6 Mbps  $46
Pro 3 Mbps  $41
* Standard DSL
DSL Direct Elite 6 Mbps $34.95
DSL Direct Pro 3 Mbps $29.95
DSL Express 1.5 Mbps $24.95
DSL Direct Basic 768 Kbps $19.95

* prices good for 6 months

   

 

Verizon made a bold move in 2012, adding its Quantum tiers and upping existing speeds in its FiOS areas. Residential subscribers can now get up to 300/65 Mbps. During Q4 2012, the provider added 144,000 net new FiOS Internet connections and 134,000 net new FiOS video connections.

* DSL Services
Standard .5 to 1.5 Mbps $19.99
High Speed Internet Enhanced 1.1 to 15 Mbps $29.99
** FiOS (FTTH)
  15/5 Mbps $74.99
  50/25 Mbps $84.99
  75/35 Mbps $94.99
  150/65 Mbps $134.99

* requires phone line
** standalone w/out contract

300/65 Mbps $205

 

CenturyLink added 41,000 broadband subscribers in Q4 2012 to bring its total to 5.85 million. The telco sees a 90% attachment rate with IPTV purchases.
ADSL2+ Services
Fast 1.5 Mbps $40
Faster 7 Mbps $45
  12 Mbps $50
FTTN (VDSL2 hybrid)
Fastest 20 Mbps $60
  40 Mbps $70

 

Windstream's consumer broadband service revenues rose 5 percent year-over-year to $116 and $457 million for the year 2012. However, it reported that it lost about 2,000 broadband subscribers, ending Q4 2012 with a total of 1.21 million subscribers.
* DSL Services
HSI (High Speed Internet) 3 Mbps $49.99
HSI Plus 6 Mbps $54.99
HSI Flash 12 Mbps $54.99
* after 12 months (price guaranteed for life)    

 

Frontier continued to see modest gains in broadband subscriptions in Q4, adding 5,300 new customers. At the end of Q4 2012 it had a total of 1.8 million broadband subscribers. 
DSL services and FiOS FTTH in select markets
  6 Mbps $19.99
  25 Mbps $54.99
With TV bundle 15/5 Mbps (FiOS) $119.99

 

TDS Telecom lost 1,400 and 700 CLEC broadband subscribers in Q4 2012, ending the quarter with a total of 299,900 subscribers. It reported that ILEC triple-play service penetration, which includes triple-play bundles of voice, video (satellite or IPTV), and data was 31 percent in its markets.
DSL Services
Lite Prime 1 Mbps/512 kbps $9.95
Express Prime 2-15 Mbps $14.95
Turbo Prime 8-15 Mbps $19.95
Extreme Prime 18-25 Mbps $34.95
FTTH Services
Turbo Prime 10 Mbps $24.95
Extreme 25 Prime 25 Mbps $29.95
Extreme 50 Prime 50/25 Mbps $45

 

FairPoint added 3,816 broadband subscribers in Q4 2012, ending the year with a total of 326,367 subscribers. It has focused on expanding broadband availability in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont--three markets it entered when it purchased Verizon's Northern New England assets in 2008.

DSL Services
Starter 768/128 kbps $21.99
Standard 3 Mbps $35.99
Premium 7 Mbps $39.99
Ultra 15 Mbps $49.99

 

Consolidated Communications, which expanded its broadband base into new markets including Kansas City, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif., via its acquisition of SureWest, added 11,079 broadband subscribers in Q4 2012. It had a total of 247,633 subscribers at the end of 2012.

DSL Services
Triple play bundle 3 Mbps $71.85
Triple play bundle 6 Mbps $81.85
  10 Mbps  
  20 Mbps  

 

Cincinnati Bell's Fioptics FTTH service continued to be the dominant driver in the telco's broadband subscriber drive in Q4 2012 as it added 5,000 new subscribers, which offset ongoing traditional DSL declines. It ended the quarter with a total of 259,000 subscribers.
* DSL (Zoom Town Internet)
  768/384 kbps $25
  5 Mbps/768 kbps $29.99
** Fioptics (FTTH)
  10/1 Mbps $29.99
  20/2 Mbps $34
  30/5 Mbps $39
  50/10 Mbps $69
  100/20 Mbps $249
*  price good for 12 months
** prices good for 12 months
   

 

Lumos Networks lost 451 rural broadband subscribers in Q4 2012, ending the quarter with a total of 39,950 subscribers.
Ultra-Fast DSL
  * 6/1 Mbps $34.95
  ** 6/1 Mbps $29.95
Broadband XL (FTTH)
  10/3 Mbps $54.95
  15/4 Mbps $49.95
  20/5 Mbps $79.95
  50/20 Mbps $184.95
  100/40 Mbps $379.95
  200/80 Mbps $599.95
  300/120 Mbps $749.95
* with local phone service
** with Unlimited Bundle
   

 

HickoryTech added 454 broadband subscribers in Q4 2012. However, like other service providers it reported that competitive price compression from local cable operators impacted broadband revenue, which was down 4 percent year-over-year to $4.9 million. 

DSL (Iowa)
Lite (with phone package) 384/128 kbps $26.95
Prime 3/1 Mbps $39.90
Pro 6/1 Mbps $49.90
DSL (Minnesota)
Lite 1 Mbps/512 kbps $29.90
Prime 6/1 Mbps $39.90
Pro 9/1 Mbps $49.90
Premium 20/1 Mbps $64.90

 

Shentel, which operates both cable and traditional wireline telco networks, added 216 DSL broadband subscribers in Q4 2012. Although it did not reveal numbers in Q4 2012, the telco has begun rolling out higher speed Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services in select markets in Q4 and throughout Q1.

DSL Services
  384 kbps $24.95
  768 kbps $29.95
  1.5 Mbps $34.95
  3 Mbps $39.95
  5 Mbps $49.95
  10 Mbps $59.95

 

Hawaiian Telcom's Q4 2012 consumer high speed Internet (HSI) revenue rose year-over-year to $9.4 million due to a 4 percent increase in HSI subscribers to about 88,000. The rise in HSI subscribers was driven by high pull-through rates for new video subscribers and an increase in standalone HSI additions.

ADSL2+ Services
Basic 7 Mbps $24.95
Advantage 11 Mbps $27.95
Premium 15 Mbps $37.95
VDSL2 Services    
Extreme 20 Mbps $49.95
Ultimate 25 Mbps $57.95
Elite 50 Mbps $79.95