AT&T closes in on Verizon in the U.S. telco TV race

AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) may not compete directly in the markets they reside in for video or broadband service, but it appears that Ma Bell is closing in on the lead in terms of subscribers.

In Q4 2011, AT&T added 208,000 U-verse customers, bringing its total IPTV customer base to 804,000, while Verizon added 194,000 new FiOS subscribers during the quarter ending the year with a total of 701,000 new subscribers.

From a total subscriber standpoint, Verizon remains the leader with 4.17 million FiOS subscribers over AT&T's 3.79 million. However, IHS points out that Verizon's lead has been cut to just 400,000 TV subscribers.

Of course, AT&T has a few challenges with its hybrid fiber/copper Fiber to the Node (FTTN) approach to delivering U-verse TV and data services.

While leveraging their existing copper infrastructure is less expensive than bringing fiber directly to the customer premise, the disadvantage for AT&T is that it can neither offer the same speeds as Verizon's all fiber service nor can it effectively compete with cable operators that offer 50 and even 100 Mbps connections over their DOCSIS infrastructure outside of its U-verse territory.

At the same time both service providers have publicly announced that their continued focus for U-verse and FiOS will be to focus on building out services in the existing territories they already currently serve.

In 2011, Verizon passed an additional 900,000 homes with FiOS, while AT&T said it has completed its U-verse buildout and will focus on deepening the penetration of homes passed. While IHS predicts that Verizon could become the second place provider behind AT&T by 2013, the service provider continues to see "healthy growth" and could surpass cable rival Charter Communications as the sixth largest video provider in the United States.

For more:
- see the release

Special report: Wireline in the fourth quarter 2011

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