Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Broadband Growth Slowing

Since only about 77% of homes have a computer and since 53% of the household units in the US have broadband, we will be seeing broadband growth slowing.

As I have pointed out before (and so has Gary Kim and now GigaOm), broadband has become a Red Ocean where cable and telco will fight it out for subscribers. Om points out that cable will need to start offering cheaper price points, since telco already has $10 and $20 offerings.

The slowing economy, increasing gas prices, and credit crunch are causing consumers to drop non-essential services -- go back to dial-up, drop satellite TV (as DISH Network noted in its latest filing), and the like.

Since the metrics on Wall Street are broadband subs and cellular adds, I reiterate what Om writes:

The reduced growth forecasts also explain why many carriers are looking at alternatives such as search, domain redirection and even web portals as a way to goose up their revenues. In other words, 2008 is going to be one brutal year for the broadband business.

What hasn't been explored is the 23% of households without a computer. They are not a prospective consumer of internet access. Although it is astonishing to me that anyone isn't on the Internet, I am coming to realize people do live different lives ;). But to grow business, how do you get the rest of the 23% on broadband -- even if it isn't on a computer?

Also, many telcos are using CAPEX to upgrade existing network (think VZ with FiOS supplanting DSL plant; ATT U-Verse same thing; and Rural LECs upgrading DSL to ADSL2+). This isn't bringing more subs (maybe more billing units or ARPU). If your metric is revenue and profit, then increasing ARPU by improving your core service is key. The only other thing to do is add revenue generating value adds like backup/archiving/storage, hosting, web design, asset management, managed services like firewall or IDS, etc.

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