US broadband subscriptions grow 370K in Q2 2019

broadband subscriptions
Fixed broadband growth will continue to slow as mobile takes a bigger share of the market

On the heels of a record-breaking decline in pay-TV subscribers during the second quarter, US broadband subscriptions continued to grow, although at a slower pace than a year ago.

A new report said cable and telephone providers added about 370,000 broadband Internet subscribers in 2Q 2019, down 23% from the 480,000 subscribers added in 2Q 2018. Over the past year, there were about 2,520,000 net broadband additions – compared to about 2,275,000 net broadband adds over the prior year. 

The top providers now account for 99.9 million broadband subscribers, said Leichtman Research Group (LRG), with top cable companies having 66.2 million subscribers, and top telephone companies having 33.7 million.

Cable, as usual, leads gains in broadband subscriptions

Cable operators added about 530,000 subscribers, down 10% from a year ago, while telcos lost 160,000 subscribers in 2Q, 45% more than the 110,000 subscribers it lost in Q2 2018.

Charter Communications (258,000) saw the addition of broadband subscriptions in the quarter, followed by Comcast (209,000) and Cox (20,000). Comcast had the most subscribers at the ends of Q2 (27.8 million), followed by Charter (25.9 million) and AT&T (15.7 million).

The biggest losses in the industry hit Frontier (-70,000), CenturyLink (-56,000), and AT&T (-39,000).

The top broadband providers have added 13.5 million subscribers in the past five years, LRG said.

The bottom line

While fixed broadband subscriptions continue to surge, about 37% of Americans say they primarily go online using a smartphone, according to Pew Research, reflecting the growing number of Americans who have a smartphone today (81%) versus 35% in 2011. It has become ubiquitous.

In 2013, just 19% of consumers in the US cited a smartphone as their device of choice for accessing the Internet.

And, while 18-29s are most likely to use a smartphone to go online (58% versus 41% in 2013), growth has happened across all age groups. Among 30-49s, the percentage hit 47% in 2019, up from 24% in 2013), among 50-64s, it was 27%, up from 6%, and among consumers 65+, the number was 15%, up from 2% just six years ago.

More importantly, more than one-in-four (27%) Americans don’t have a fixed broadband connection at home. About 45% of them say their smartphone does everything they need, with 23% saying that’s the most important reason to forego a home connection.

About 17% of Americans describe themselves as “smartphone-only” Internet users, more than double the number in 20134.

That’s a number that will increase as 5G wireless networks expand in the coming years, and it underlines just how important it is for broadcasters and content owners to have a mobile plan as the pillar of their distribution strategies moving forward.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn