U.S. Fixed Network Internet Access Market Reaching Saturation?

Is the U.S. consumer fixed internet access market near saturation? It is quite possible.

By at least one estimate, there are 95 million U.S. buyers of fixed network internet access.


In the fourth quarter of 2017 there were an estimated 136.9 million U.S. housing units. Vacancy rates are an issue, though. Some 16.7 million of those units were vacant.


In the fourth quarter of 2017, some seven percent of rental units were unoccupied, as were some 1.6 percent of owned residences. So assume the number of residences where fixed network consumer telecom services could be sold is about 120.2 million.


So that implies 79 percent of all U.S. households buy a fixed network internet access subscription. Assume another 1.6 million buy a satellite internet access service (about one percent of occupied U.S. residences. That implies 80 percent of occupied homes buy internet access.


But we also must add another six million subscribers served by all the smaller telcos, cable TV companies and independent internet service providers (assuming those smaller fixed network suppliers supply five percent of homes). That adds another five percent, bringing consumer household buying of internet access up to about 85 percent.


Also, some 10 percent of homes use mobile internet access exclusively, according to the Pew Research Center. So add another 12 million occupied U.S. homes to the total of buyers of internet access.


That brings buyers of internet access up to about 95 percent of U.S. occupied homes. The point is that we fast are approaching the point where at-home internet access is saturated. There simply are not that many more U.S. homes to convert, possibly six million or so (unless the percentage of occupied homes grows and millions of new households are formed, driving demand for new housing stock).


In fact, some might argue that as we move into the 5G era, there will be even more mobile substitution. That means it is possible we are very near to the peak of fixed network residential internet access penetration. With the exception of older demographics, home internet access adoption home internet access adoptionhas been flat since about 2010.


Leichtman Research Group reports the 14 largest U.S. cable and telephone providers of internet access  in the United States, representing about 95 percent of the customers--acquired about 2.1 million net additional high-speed Internet subscribers in 2017 (that figure also includes business users).

Broadband Providers
Subscribers at End
of 4Q 2017
Net Adds in
2017
Cable Companies


Comcast
25,869,000
1,168,000
Charter
23,903,000
1,310,000
Altice
4,046,200
83,700
Mediacom
1,209,000
47,000
WOW (WideOpenWest)*
730,000
11,100
Cable ONE**
524,935
11,027
Other Major Private Company^
4,880,000
90,000
Total Top Cable
61,162,135
2,720,827



Phone Companies


AT&T
15,719,000
114,000
Verizon
6,959,000
(79,000)
CenturyLink
5,662,000
(283,000)
Frontier
3,938,000
(333,000)
Windstream
1,006,600
(44,500)
Cincinnati Bell
308,700
5,500
FairPoint^^
301,000
(5,624)
Total Top Telco
33,894,300
(625,624)



Total Top Broadband
95,056,435
2,095,203

The point is that market share shifts are likely to be the key battleground in the consumer fixed network access market, as it appears we are very near saturation, where nearly every customer that wants to buy the product already is a buyer.

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