U.S. Broadband Growth Continues to Slow

The number of new broadband subscribers continues to slow in the U.S., according to data gathered by UBS Research, driven primarily by market saturation. The Wall Street firm estimates that there are 67 million broadband subscribers in the U.S., or roughly 60 percent of the nation’s households and about 70 percent of those with a PC.

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As we’ve previously noted, the number of net new broadband subscribers during the first half of 2009 was down 27 percent from the first half of 2008, to about 2.1 million. UBS Research expects this downward trajectory to continue.

We expect continued declines in the remainder of 2009 and 2010, with total broadband subscriber growth of just 5.4% in 2009 and 3.6% in 2010, vs. 8.4% in 2008. We expect broadband subscriber growth to slow to 3.5% in 2010, down from an estimated 5.4% in 2009. This will drive consumer broadband revenue growth of just 2.6%, down from 6.9% expected in 2009.

Average revenue per unit in the second quarter of 2009 was $36 a month: telcos took in an average of $31 while for cable companies the average was $41, mostly because they had higher speeds.

In the past, both Stacey and I have argued that broadband subscription providers need to counter the slowing growth by offering higher-speed (both up and downstream) subscription packages that command higher monthly fees. Instead, some backward-looking cable operators such as Time Warner Cable are looking to impose bandwidth metering to protect their revenues.

There is hope, however, that the broadband stimulus plan will boost broadband access, especially in regions that are severely underserved.

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