Leichtman Research Group recently released the broadband customer statistics for the end of the fourth quarter of 2020 for the largest cable and telephone companies. Leichtman compiles most of these numbers from the statistics provided to stockholders other than for Cox, which is estimated. Leichtman says this group of companies represents 96% of all US landline broadband customers.
The fourth quarter showed sustained growth in broadband customers with almost 900,000 new broadband subscribers customers added by the big ISPs. Probably the most impressive number on the chart below is the 4.6 million new broadband households added during the pandemic year. The following are the statistics showing the growth in the fourth quarter and the growth for the whole pandemic year.
|4Q 2020||4Q Change||% Change||2020 Change|
Going purely by the numbers, the cable companies collectively added 852,009 customers in the fourth quarter – the slowest growth quarter this year. The telcos made a turnaround from losses early in the year and added 45,189 customers.
There are still a few factors that probably still make 2020 subscriber numbers a little soft. Many of the ISPs have added free or low-cost connections for students that are likely included in these subscriber number. But a lot of the growth all year has come from homes that have added a full-rate broadband product to allow for working or schooling from home. One has to think that many of those connections – but probably not all – will be kept permanently.
Not reflected directly in these numbers is a phenomenon that’s been reported by OpenVault. The company reports that huge numbers of homes have been upgrading to faster broadband products to better support working and schooling from home. Perhaps the best statistic to capture this phenomenon is the growth of households subscribed to gigabit services. OpenVault reported that at the end of the fourth quarter that 8.5% of all homes in the country were subscribed to a gigabit product, triple the 2.8% of homes that were buying gigabit speeds at the end of 2019. Large number of speed upgrades have to be good for ISP earnings.