Leichtman Research Group recently released the broadband customer statistics for the second quarter of 2019 for the largest cable and telephone companies. Leichtman added Atlantic Broadband and TDS to their tracking list for the first time – both companies now have more customers than Cincinnati Bell, the smallest company on the list. Leichtman compiles these numbers from the statistics provided to stockholders. The numbers are lower than broadband customers counted at the FCC, and I think that most of the difference is to due to the way many of these companies count broadband to apartment buildings. If they provide a gigabit pipe to serve an apartment building they count that as 1 customer, whereas the FCC is likely counting the number of apartment units served.
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Currently, these companies are seeing a composite annual rate of growth of broadband customers of 1.6% annually. These largest ISPs will surpass 100 million customers during this current quarter. Leichtman notes that these sixteen companies have added 13.5 million broadband customers over the last five years and 28.9 million over the last ten years.
These numbers raise the question if we are finally starting to see overall growth in the broadband market slow down. Consider the comparison of the second quarter of 2018 and 2019 annualized:
‘ 2018 2019
Cable Companies 2,987,721 2,128,844
Telcos ( 472,124) ( 648,848)
Annualized Total 2,425,597 1,479,996
According to the FCC, over 85% of homes now have a broadband connection. Adjusting that statistics for rural homes that can’t get broadband, the penetration rate everywhere else is over 90%.
The growth of broadband customers added by cable company customers is slowing, with Comcast and Charter continue to be the only companies adding significant quantities of customers (over 200,000 each for the quarter).
Loss of telco broadband customers has increased over last year, mostly due to Frontier and CenturyLink losing DSL customers.
There are significant implications for cable companies if broadband growth stagnates because cable stock prices have been fueled by revenue growth driven by new broadband customers. As the number of broadband customers levels off, many industry analysts expect the companies to begin regularly raising broadband rates to meet Wall Street earnings expectations. We’ve seen the first signs of broadband rate increases over the last year, and the above slowdown is bound to rachet up the pressure on the cable companies.