Comcast third-largest U.S. telco--for now

Comcast announced that it is now the third-largest residential telephone service provider (what some of us call a "telco") in the U.S. in terms of customer base, with about 6.47 million customers. But, for how long? If the merger of CenturyTel and Embarq closes in the second quarter as planned, the resulting company will have somewhere pretty far north of 7 million lines. Sounds like it will be nip and tuck for a while. The ironic part is that Comcast's announcement this week comes about 14 months after the cable TV giant announced that it had become the fourth-largest telco in the U.S. by surpassing-wait for it-Embarq.

This is not to take anything away from Comcast, which has become hugely successful in the phone business. Some of you might feel that in an age when voice is becoming just another data application, all of this doesn't mean all that much, but consider it another way: This week's news represents the first time ever that a cable TV firm has surpassed a former Bell company and descendant of the original AT&T in total voice customers.

Comcast Digital Voice now has about 500,000 more phone customers than Qwest Communications (the aforementioned former Bell company) has in terms of primary line customers. If you count Qwest's total line numbers, it runs close to Comcast's customer figure, but most of those are likely secondary lines for customers counted in the primary line figure of about 5.96 million.

For more:
- Here's the Comcast press release

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Comcast said in January 2008 that it had become the fourth-largest U.S. telco
CenturyTel is looking to almost quadruple its customer base by buying Embarq