Recent quarterly reports from the likes of AT&T and Verizon paint an ugly picture for DSL. AT&T’s DSL growth rate slowed significantly last quarter, adding only 47K net new subscribers. Verizon fared much worse, losing 133K DSL subs. It’s true that Verizon’s marketing attention is FiOS right now, which certainly contributes to their DSL losses, but are those losses a reason for concern? Maybe. In their last quarterly report (1Q08), Comcast reported that 66% of their new cable modem customers defected from DSL. On the surface, one could argue that DSL is losing the broadband war. Perhaps this issue is apropos to Verizon and AT&T alone. Both of them are somewhat distracted. As mentioned earlier, FiOS has all the attention at Verizon and AT&T is in the midst of iPhone mania. It might not be fair to generalize DSL’s woes based on those two alone. As other telcos release their quarterly numbers, we may see a more general trend that either supports or detracts from this potential DSL growth hypothesis.
We all know that broadband growth is slowing. And the U.S. economy and the uncertainty it creates doesn’t foster great conditions for growth in any sector. These factors may be impacting DSL’s apparent slowing momentum. But what’s troublesome for DSL carriers per the economy, is that DSL has historically been the broadband “value play” (across a national average – this “value” price advantage is not present in every market). Logically speaking, in this economy, DSL should be holding up well relative to other more expensive broadband options. To get a true picture of DSL’s potential trouble, we’ll have to closely examine upcoming cable modem numbers. If cable modem additions are not slowing at relatively the same pace, DSL may indeed have a problem. It may signal telecom carriers will have to increase their efforts to make their bundle more attractive and their value proposition more relevant with subscribers. As their quarterly numbers reveal, AT&T and Verizon have less to worry about on this issue, because wireless revenue comes in to save the day for them. DSL carriers who don’t have that luxury may indeed need to ask what’s wrong with DSL. What is your DSL experience revealing for you?