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December 04, 2012

How Much Growth is Left for High Speed Access in the U.S. Market?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

For the most part, high-speed access now is close to “mature,” at least in developed markets, where most people who want the product already buy it.

Leichtman Research Group points out that the 17 largest cable and telephone providers, representing about 93 percent of the total market, acquired about 580,000 net high-speed Internet subscribers in the third quarter of 2012. In other words, net additions represented a fraction of one percent of the installed base.

That suggests demand is largely met. Collectively, these service providers now account for over 80.7 million subscribers. Cable companies have 46.2 million broadband subscribers, and telephone companies have 34.5 million subscribers.

Image via Shutterstock

The issue is how close the U.S. market is to full saturation. By some estimates, U.S. fixed network broadband penetration is near 80 percent of homes. You might argue that leaves room to grow, and there is, but not much.

The reason is that not every home requires broadband. Not every home owns computers. Not every home has users that want to use at-home Wi-Fi to support tablet and smartphone access, or game consoles or Internet-connected TVs.

Also, some households substitute mobile access for fixed connections. Perhaps six percent of U.S. homes using broadband already seem to rely exclusively on mobile connections.

When asked what device they normally use to access the Internet, 25 percent of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer.

While many of these individuals have other sources of online access at home, roughly one third of these “cell mostly” Internet users lack a high-speed home broadband connection, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. That implies about an eight percent of households that only use mobile broadband.

Those figures should growth as Long Term Evolution fourth generation networks become more widespread, as price competition grows and more people find they can substitute a mobile broadband connection for a fixed connection.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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