China's cable wars

Robert Clark
Telecom Asia

US telcos are getting beaten up by cable operators in the broadband market, recent stats show.

AT&T lost 92,000 wireline broadband subs in the second quarter and Verizon added just 28,000. AT&T's total consumer connections for the quarter were down 700,000.

Verizon is in positive territory only because of its FiOS fiber rollout, which clocked up net adds of 196,000 broadband and 174,000 TV customers. The problem is its DSL service is bleeding not just to the fiber business and but also to cable.

The big two cable guys, Comcast and Time Warner, are likely to add at least 150,000 broadband subs between them. The cable sector as a whole took one percentage point of market share off the telcos this year, according to research firm BTIG Research. It predicts they will snatch another two points by the end of 2011.

For their part, telcos have taken 5% market share of the pay-TV business - up from zero six years ago - and over that period cable has fallen ten points to 62%, although most of that has gone to satellite TV.

In other words, telcos are making some gains in TV but cable is eating up slabs of telecom.

Which helps explain the enthusiasm of China's cable ministry, the State Administration of Radio, Film & TV (SARFT), over the latest attempt at converging cable and telecom in the China market.

It's one of those long-running Chinese sagas, known revealingly in the local jargon as "three-network integration," referring to cable, telecom and internet. China is surely the only place in the world that treats the internet - literally the network of networks - as a separate "network."

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