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Market share, not households new to broadband, is the focus of “intense competition” between four types of service providers, according to Kagan, the media research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The firm’s 2022 broadband forecast found that residential service penetration is more than 90% of occupied U.S. households. Hence the shift in focus.

Kagan says that both public and private money is pushing the increased competition. The federal money is from the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, as well as other government sponsored broadband funding programs. This is complemented by private investments.

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It’s a hot industry, according to the report. “There simply are not enough subscribers to accommodate the growth ambitions of each segment,” the research note says. “Cable operators believe they can continue to take market share, the telcos believe they can steal momentum with fiber, the wireless services believe 5G is their answer to residential substitution and the satellite services believe they can elevate access everywhere.”

Broadband Market Share

Here is how Kagan positions the top four contenders:

  • Cable: HFC networks continue to dominate residential broadband and have aggressive buildout plans. Kagan estimates the segment is positioned to limit market share loss amid intensifying competition and control with 61.9% share through 2026.
  • Telcos: The impact of fiber upgrades is limited by legacy copper. Kagan predicts the segment can reverse declines but its market share will slip below 25% by 2026.
  • Wireless: Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are ramping up fixed wireless access (FWA) networks and targeting both rural and non-rural areas. Kagan expects wireless-only homes will grow from 8% to 12.6% of broadband subscribers by 2026.
  • Satellite: The next generation of satellite broadband offers optimism, but the unfavorable cost and speed comparisons limit growth expectations. It’s a niche service for the residential sector. Kagan expects it to hold 1% share through 2026.

Signs of competition abound. For instance, both Verizon and T-Mobile featured fixed wireless ads during the Super Bowl that took aim at cable operators and their core residential market.

The cable industry isn’t sitting by idly watching its broadband market share erode. It continues to upgrade its technology. For instance, Comcast last month achieved speeds of 8.5 Gbps downstream and 6 Gbps upstream on a live network using DOCSIS 4.0, an element of the industry’s 10G standard. That speed previously had only been reached in lab environments.

Verizon is looking to use a combination of technologies to support broadband. At its Investor Day in early March, the telco said that it already has Fios available to 16 million locations, with 2 million more to be added by the end of 2025. At that time, it expects to have 8 million Fios Internet subscribers. The company plans to make FWA available to 50 million households and 14 million businesses by that time. Between 4 million and 5 million customers are expected to subscribe.

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