Wireline Broadband Copper/Fiber Transition Struggles Continue; Cable Sees Slight Gain in Q3

As the third quarter 2022 came to a close, telcos and cable operators saw continued struggles in growing their respective broadband bases. 

  • AT&T

The broadband race continues to be a battleground for telcos and cable operators. Still, in the third quarter, both segments saw cracks in the armor with ongoing legacy losses and continued threats from broadband wireless.

According to Leichtman Research Group (LRG), these top broadband providers account for about 110.8 million subscribers. In this mix, the cable companies have about 75.6 million broadband subscribers, top wireline telcos have over 32 million, and the top fixed wireless services have about 3.2 million subscribers.

Further, broadband additions in the third quarter of 2022 were 101 percent of those in the third quarter of 2021.

“Top broadband providers added about 825,000 subscribers in 3Q 2022, including 920,000 net adds for fixed wireless services, along with a minor gain for cable and net losses for wireline phone providers,” said Bruce Leichtman, president, and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, in a release.

In this report, we track three main metrics:

Total Broadband Subscribers: This looks at the total number of subscribers the top 16 broadband providers had at the end of the third quarter. Although not as high as when the COVID-19 pandemic began, cable continues to maintain the upper hand in the broadband race, controlling a significant market share of the U.S. residential broadband market.

Broadband Additions, Losses: Cable continued to lead the commanded broadband market during the third quarter with 76 million subscribers. However, some operators like Comcast and Charter only saw slight gains and Cox’s broadband growth remained flat. Meanwhile, regional providers like Altice and Breezeline lost 43,000 and 10,000 subscribers, respectively. Mediacom reported flat growth while Cable One and WOW! only added 3,000 and 1,500 subscribers, respectively. AT&T and Lumen saw gains in fiber-based broadband, adding that it wasn’t enough to offset DSL losses. For example, AT&T added 550,000 net fiber subscribers, which wasn’t enough to offset its nearly 685,000 non-fiber net losses during the quarter. Likewise, Lumen reported it lost 121,000 copper subscribers but only added 31,000 Quantum Fiber customers.

Broadband Revenues: As the largest cable operators and telcos add more broadband subscribers, they will enhance broadband revenues.

Here are the statistics of the top 17 broadband providers in the third quarter. 

Service provider Total Broadband Subs Subs Added/Lost Broadband Revenue
Comcast 32.2M 14K $6.1B
Charter 30.3M 75K $5.6B
AT&T 15.5M (57K) $2.1B
Verizon  7.45M 35K $2.9B
Lumen (CenturyLink) 4.3M (121K) $1.2B
Cox  5.6M 0 not reported
Altice USA  4.3M (43K) $982M
Frontier 2.83M 4K $848M
Mediacom 1.5M 0 $277M
Windstream  1.2M (3.5K) not reported
Cable One 1.1M 3K $234M
Breezeline 708K (10K) not reported
WOW!  538K 1.5K $102.3M
TDS Telecom 507K 5.7K $170M
Consolidated  382K 700 $70M
Shentel  4K 130K $62.4M

We track two main types of service providers that provide wireline residential broadband services:

ILECs: Traditional telcos are at a crossroads. As more customers want higher speeds, this group has been transitioning their copper networks to FTTH across select markets.

Cable MSOs: Cable MSOs made their broadband business by delivering broadband over HFC. Apart from deploying FTTH in select greenfield markets, the advent of DOCSIS 3.1 and the upcoming DOCSIS 4.1 standard enables cable MSOs to offer 1 Gbps over their existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) plant. However, some providers, such as Altice USA, have opted for an all-FTTH approach.

 

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