Cox, Time Warner Cable take dominant spots in cable Ethernet market, says VSG

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Cable operators are becoming a bigger threat in the Ethernet service market, reports Vertical Systems Group in its year-end 2012 Leaderboard, which tracks the top five cable operators based on port share.

VSG Leaderboard cable Ethernet 2012Making the cut were Cox, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Charter (Nasdaq: CHTR), Lightpath (formerly branded under Cablevision's (NYSE: CVC) Optimum Lightpath), and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA).

As early adopters of Ethernet services, Cox and Time Warner Cable have held a spot on Vertical's related U.S. Ethernet Leaderboard since 2007.

"Cox and Time Warner Cable were the only ones out of this group that were on the U.S. Leaderboard," said Rosemary Cochran, principal of Vertical Systems Group, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Both of these cable operators have been around for a long time."

While Cox and Time Warner Cable have a strong lead in the business Ethernet market, one provider delivering Ethernet that's worth keeping an eye on going forward is Comcast Business Services.

In Q4 2012, business services were one of Comcast's biggest areas of growth. As reported in FierceCable, revenue from commercial products such as Ethernet and mobile backhaul services jumped 34.2 percent to $660 million.

"Comcast literally only started pushing Ethernet around 2010," Cochran said. "It's been less than a couple of years since they branded it and then they became very aggressive so the news is they are the fastest growing of those on this Leaderboard."

While a bit later to the Ethernet game, Comcast struck a major coup last week when it became the first service provider to have its certification for its E-Line and E-LAN services be certified under the Metro Ethernet Forum's Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) specification.

"Gaining CE 2.0 certification is significant and is reflective of the share gains that they have made in being aggressive in the business Ethernet market," Cochran said. "Going forward that will be a plus for differentiation in the market and also saying 'we have tested the services and this is what you're getting.'"

Besides Comcast, the other provider to keep a close eye on going forward is Charter Communications. Like Comcast, Charter also reported that commercial revenue, including Ethernet and backhaul, increased by 20.4 percent to $177 million in Q4 2012.

Charter is operating in another key growth area for Ethernet services. "Charter also has Ethernet access to Layer 3 VPNs and [is] all optical, so they're a little bit different in that a lot of the cable companies don't go to Layer 3," Cochran said.

While the strategies of these cable operators differ, the common theme is that they are expanding their Ethernet product set and reach to challenge the ILECs and CLECs that are aggressively rolling out Ethernet services for SMBs and increasingly for medium and large businesses.

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