The U.S. wireline broadband business continued its rapid pandemic-fueled customer expansion in the third quarter, with the leading providers adding 1.53 million subscribers, the industry’s best growth since the first quarter of 2009.
In all, services that deliver the internet through cable, fiber or DSL added 915,000 more customers than they did in the third quarter of 2019, according to Leichtman Research Group (LRG), which tallied the performances of the top 16 ISPs covering 96% of the U.S. market.
The leading cable operators continued their incendiary growth, adding 1.32 million customers in Q3—down slightly on a sequential basis from the nearly 1.4 million they added in Q2, but up big from around 832,000 adds in the third quarter last year. Comcast’s 633,000 net adds in Q3 were more than in any quarter in the past 15 years.
The differentiating factor in Q3 2020 was the return to growth for AT&T (added 174,000 subscribers) and Verizon (up 110,000), with both companies gaining momentum with their fiber-to-the-home offerings.
The top wireline phone companies added about 210,000 subscribers in the third quarter, compared to a net loss of about 220,000 subscribers in Q3 2019.
On a pro forma basis, this was only the second quarter since Q1 2016 that telcos have had positive net adds. The last quarter when they had more net adds was in Q1 2013.
“With the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in 3Q 2020 than in any quarter in over eleven years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG, in a statement “Over the past year, there were about 4,550,000 net broadband adds, compared to about 2,550,000 net broadband adds over the prior year. This marks the most broadband net adds in a year since 3Q 2008-2Q 2009.”
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