November 22, 2021

Pandemic-Driven Broadband Surge Appears to Be Ending!

COVID’s impact on broadband subscribership is waning, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group (LRG). The nation’s largest cable and wireline phone companies saw gains of 630K net additional subscribers in the third quarter, which is in line with third quarters in 2019 (615K) and 2018 (600K).

Third-quarter broadband gains in all three years were way behind last year’s COVID-driven third-quarter total of 1,525,000 additions.

The broadband providers that LRG studies account for about 96% of the U.S. market. The cable operators finished the quarter with about 75.2 million broadband subscribers. The phone companies finished with about 32.7 million subscribers, bringing the total to 107.9 million subscribers.

Broadband Gains

Key findings for the third quarter:

  • Overall, broadband additions were 41% of those in the third quarter of 2020
  • The top cable companies added about 590,000 subscribers– 45% of their net additions in the third quarter of 2020
  • The top wireline phone companies netted about 40,000 total new broadband subscribers– compared to about 200,000 net ads in the third quarter of 2020
  • Telcos had about 475,000 net adds via fiber and about 435,000 non-fiber net losses

Three of the top five cable companies had net additions during the quarter. Comcast added 300,000 subscribers (ending with 31,688,000); Charter added 265,000 subscribers (ending with 29,899,000) and Cox added 25,000 (ending with 5,510,000). Altice lost 13,200 subscribers (ending with 4,388,100) and Mediacom lost 2,000 subscribers (ending with 1,466,000).

The top five phone companies also had three winners and two losers. AT&T added 29,000 subscribers (ending with 15,510,000), Verizon added 74,000 (ending with 7,337,000), and Windstream gained 15,200 subscribers (ending with 1,147,000). CenturyLink/Lumen lost 77,000 subscribers (ending with 4,589,000) and Frontier lost 9,000 subscribers (ending with 2,789,000).

“Broadband additions returned to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2021,” Leichtman Research Group President and Principal Analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a press release.  “The top broadband providers added significantly fewer subscribers than in last year’s third quarter, but had a similar number of net adds as in 3Q 2019 and 3Q 2018.”