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Comcast Is Now 3rd Largest U.S. Phone Company*

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enhanced-cordless-phoneUpdate: If shabby treatment of its customers and draconian policies are any indication, then Comcast (s CMCSA) has been behaving like a plain-old phone company for a long time. I say that because the company emailed us today to let us know that it’s now the third-largest residential phone company in the U.S., ahead of Qwest (s Q). While not as innovative as, say, Cablevision, I see Comcast as a fast follower with the ability to sell me-too products in volume. The Philadelphia-based cable operator offers “Digital Voice” IP-based phone service in 39 states to 6.47 million customers.

I’m surprised that it’s managed to sign up so many customers, considering that its packages are anything but cheap. Comcast is not the only one selling a lot of voice connections — other cable operators such as Time Warner Cable (s TWC) are doing well and putting the hurt on traditional phone companies. The rising fortune of cable companies’ voice business is in sharp contrast to dedicated VoIP service providers like Vonage (s V), which has been struggling to keep its early momentum. (Related Posts: Who killed the VoIP revolution? and Is Cable VoIP getting a sore throat?)

Update: * Qwest says it has 7.8 million lines, and as a result Comcast’s claim may not be quite right, though we wonder if Q is including its enterprise customers in the total to bolster its claim. We checked with them, and as expected, these include 1.3 million small business users and 6.5 million residential users. From that perspective, Comcast did make a legit claim.

13 Responses to “Comcast Is Now 3rd Largest U.S. Phone Company*”

  1. Jeremy Newbury

    Triniti Communications is killing them all with their $20 Unlimited VoIP service with all of the features, free international calling and free softphone included. And the price doesn’t go up. And when they come out with their portable HD IPTV and $45 nationwide unlimited mobile phone services, it will be a done deal. Cable or satellite will not be able to compete with them. Period.

  2. DG Lewis

    Also note that Comcast reports “customers”, not “lines”, which is why they compare their subscriber count to Qwest’s primary residential line count. The numbers are a bit more confusing, because a small number of Comcast’s subscribers are “SOHO” (small office/home office) type subs that would likely be counted by Qwest in their “Small Business” bucket. But, hey, it’s a press release, not rocket science.

  3. Ingrid Miichelsen

    At we monitor residential phone usage and the decline of home phones, in general. Comcast has its shortcomings, but it is startling how well they and other cable companies have so quickly ‘followed’ with Voip phone service. I wonder about Vonage
    and other standalone voip providers– what is their long term plan when wireless and cheap cable bundles take over?

  4. These triple play subscribers are bumps on the road to naked wireless voice.

    Subscribers will churn out when the promotional period ends to pure wireless plays (traditionals Verizon and AT&T and upstarts like MetroPCS). Then video revenues are at risk as users flock to alternative entertainment and Netflix, etc on demand. They’ll still get their $50/month for broadband, but that will be a blow coming down from $100 triple play or $150 full spend deals. Back to 1995 ARPUs.

  5. @[email protected] — Short term low price enticements are standard fare for many services. Dish, DirectTV, every cable, every telephone company, wireless, web hosting, and every telecom service I can think of offers an initial low cost offering to entice new customers. Even Children’s Book of the Month Club does this.

    Om – Also I think you meant to write “Comcast is not the only one …” not “Comcast is the only one …”

    Honestly, I don’t see what there is to pick on. I hope you all count yourselves lucky to HAVE a choice. Some of us (about 40% of the US population) do NOT have cable available — which is unfortunate because having a choice (as you point out) is a good thing.

  6. @macdad

    I think it is how the service price jumps after the contract is over that bugs me no end. I think in many ways I distrust Comcast more than the phone companies. Why? because they are not regulated like the phone companies and they are much more free to do stuff typical phone companies won’t do.

    Anyway this convenient duopoly is the making of an inherently corrupt and duplicitous crooks called our politicians and elected officials.

  7. Ditto on the no landline. Recent Comcast enticement is $19.99/month (for 12 months) for “unlimited home phone and Comcast HD with DVR service.” I terminated one monopoly only to have another making these pitches.

  8. I’m not terribly surprised considering how aggressively they try to get people signup for their triple play package (cable, internet, and phone). I was trying to get a new deal and they kept suggesting it (they mail stuff about it all the time too) until I made it clear I didn’t want a landline.