Cable surpasses telcos in the broadband subscriber race

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In the U.S. broadband race, cable operators have the upper hand over traditional telcos, according to Leichtman Research Group's latest report.

As the two largest U.S. telcos, namely AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) begin to wind down their respective U-verse and FiOS rollouts, cable operators have been happily attacking markets with their DOCSIS 3.0-based services with speeds ranging from 20-100 Mbps and triple play bundles.

These efforts paid off for cable operators as in 2011 they added a total of 2.3 million subscribers, or 75 percent of overall broadband additions in 2011. Top cable operator Comcast added 336,000 broadband Internet subscribers and 146,000 voice subscribers in Q4, for example.

By comparison, the top telcos only added 750,000 broadband subscribers in 2011.

During the fourth quarter, AT&T and Verizon both saw growth with their next-gen U-verse and FiOS data products, adding 587,000 and 201,000 subscribers, respectively. However, AT&T lost 49,000 traditional DSL broadband connections, an issue likely attributable to subscribers in non U-verse markets subscribing to a cable offering.

Even though the U.S. broadband market is arguably becoming saturated, it's clear that consumers continue to like their broadband connections as both cable and telephone providers collectively added 765,000 broadband subscribers in 2011

"Despite a high level of broadband penetration in the U.S., the top broadband providers added 88% as many subscribers in 2011 as in 2010," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. "At the end of 2011, the top broadband providers in the U.S. cumulatively had over 78.6 million subscribers, an increase of nearly 25 million over the past five years."

Broadband By The Numbers

Broadband Internet Provider

Subscribers at End of 4Q 2011

Net Adds in 2011

Cable Companies



Comcast

18,147,000

1,159,000

Time Warner^

10,344,000

491,000

Cox*

4,500,000

130,000

Charter

3,654,600

252,900

Cablevision

2,965,000

73,000

Suddenlink

951,400

65,100

Mediacom

851,000

13,000

Insight^

550,000

25,500

Cable ONE

451,082

25,680

Other Major Private Cable Companies**

1,925,000

55,000

Total Top Cable

44,339,082

2,290,180




Telephone Companies



AT&T

16,427,000

117,000

Verizon

8,670,000

278,000

CenturyLink

5,554,000

238,000

Frontier^^

1,735,000

37,833

Windstream

1,355,300

53,600

FairPoint

314,135

24,390

Cincinnati Bell

257,300

1,200

Total Top Telephone Companies

34,312,735

750,023




Total Broadband

78,651,817

3,040,203

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* LRG estimate
** Includes LRG estimates for Bright House Networks, and RCN
^ Totals prior to Time Warner Cable's acquisition of Insight completed on 2/29/2012
^^ LRG estimate does not include wireless subscribers
Company subscriber counts may not represent solely residential households
Totals reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions
Top cable and telephone companies represent approximately 93% of all subscribers

For more:
- see the release
- and FierceCable's Q4 subscriber summary

Special report: Wireline in the fourth quarter 2011

Related articles:
AT&T Q4 2011 wireline growth driven by ongoing video, broadband gains
Verizon Q4 2011 wireline results get boost from FiOS video, broadband adds
CenturyLink increases broadband subscriber count, narrows access line losses in Q4 2011
Sizing up the cable industry in Q4 2011