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North American Broadband Trends

The broadband sector, like the wireless sector, is one of the strongest growth areas of telecommunications. Unlike most OECD countries, where DSL tends to dominate, the majority of subscribers in the US fixed broadband market are cable subscribers. During 2010 the gap continued to widen as the cable companies accounted for 70% of new broadband subscribers compared to the telcos’ 30%. Although new broadband networks such as FttH and WiMAX are being widely deployed, broadband competition in each region is still generally limited to one DSL and one cable operator.

The DSL segment is led by the telco giants AT&T and Verizon, which together account for around 75% of DSL subscribers, slightly down from their prior year’s share. Cable broadband is only slightly less concentrated with three companies, Comcast, Time Warner and Cox, accounting for around 80% of cable broadband subscribers. Despite the economic recovery, DSL and cable modem growth rates are expected to decline over the next five years as household penetration reaches saturation and mobile broadband networks become widely deployed.

By 2010 the number of homes passed with FttH approached 18 million, representing nearly 15% of all households. Verizon leads the nation’s FttH deployment with more than 12.5 million homes passed of which nearly 30% had taken out subscriptions.

However, while FttH growth figures in the USA are currently impressive, the country performs relatively poorly on the global stage in terms of penetration, ranking around 15th in the world in terms of fixed broadband and 8th in terms of mobile broadband. In the US around 7% of households are connected to FttH or Fibre-to-the-Building (FttB)) networks, compared with over 50% combined FttH/FttB penetration in South Korea and 35% penetration in Japan.

US fixed broadband penetration and mobile broadband penetration (2010 - 2011):

YearFixed broadbandMobile broadband
PenetrationOECD rankingPenetrationOECD ranking
2010 (e)30%14th44%9th
2011 (e)34%15th50%8th

(Source: USA Fixed and Wireless Broadband Market - Analysis, Statistics and Forecasts, BuddeComm)

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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