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National Broadband Growth is Slowing

Leichtman Research recently released the U.S. broadband customer statistics for the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. The numbers show that broadband growth has slowed significantly for the sixteen largest ISPs tracked by the company. LRG compiles these statistics from customer counts provided to stockholders, except for Cox, which is privately owned.

Net customer additions sank each quarter during the year. The first quarter of 2021 saw over 1 million net new broadband customers. That dropped to just under 900,000 in the second quarter, 630,000 in the third quarter, and now 423,000 in the fourth quarter. The statistics for all of 2021 and the fourth quarter are as follows:

Annual%4Q%
4Q 2021ChangeChangeChangeChange
Comcast30,574,0001,327,0004.3%213,0000.7%
Charter28,879,0001,210,0004.2%190,0000.6%
AT&T15,384,000120,0000.8%(6,000)0.0%
Verizon7,129,000236,0003.3%28,0000.4%
Cox5,380,000150,0002.8%20,0000.4%
CenturyLink4,767,000(248,000)-5.2%(70,000)-1.5%
Altice4,389,600(3,400)-0.1%(1,900)0.0%
Frontier2,834,000(35,000)-1.2%10,0000.4%
Mediacom1,438,00025,0001.7%(3,000)-0.2%
Windstream1,109,30055,2005.0%17,5001.5%
Cable ONE992,00063,0006.4%25,0002.4%
Atlantic Broadband698,00018,7782.7%(222)0.0%
WOW!498,80012,9002.6%2,2000.4%
TDS493,30032,7006.6%3,2000.6%
Cincinnati Bell436,1003,9000.9%1,0000.2%
Consolidated401,357(16,793)-4.2%(6,097)-1.6%
Total105,403,4572,951,2852.8%422,6810.4%
Cable72,849,4002,803,2783.8%445,0780.6%
Telco32,554,057148,0070.5%(22,397)-0.1%
      
Fixed Wireless874,000719,00082.3%  

There are a few interesting things to keep an eye on in the future. The growth for Comcast and Charter have slowed significantly, and my prediction is that there will come a quarter within a year where one or both of them will lose net customers. For several years running, Frontier has been bleeding customers but seems to be turning it around. The big loser is now CenturyLink.

For some reason, LRG is leaving out fixed cellular customers. At the end of 2021, T-Mobile reported 646,000 fixed cellular customers, with 546,000 added in 2021. Verizon is up to 228,000 fixed cellular customers, up by 173,000 during 2021. The two companies, along with AT&T, are making a major push in this market and expect to add millions of customers in 2022—many at the expense of the other ISPs on the list. It’s an odd choice to exclude these customers since the speeds on fixed cellular are faster than the DSL delivered by the telcos on the list. Also missing are other big providers that are probably larger than Consolidated, like a few of the largest WISPs and fiber overbuilders like Google Fiber.

But even after counting the growth of fixed cellular broadband, it’s obvious that the broadband market growth has cooled. The burst of new customers in 2020 and the first half of 2021 were clearly fueled by homes buying broadband during the pandemic.

It’s also worth noting that the numbers for WOW! and Atlantic Broadband (now Breezeline) have been adjusted for the sale of customers by WOW!.

By Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting

Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products, and finance new ventures.

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