Cable Appears to Widen Data Lead

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By any measure — year-over-year or quarter-to-quarter — cable appears to have widened its high-speed-data lead over the telcos.

The four major incumbent local-exchange carriers — Verizon Communications, SBC Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. — added 477,000 digital subscriber line customers in first-quarter 2002, compared to 506,000 additions in first-quarter 2001 and 583,000 subscribers in fourth-quarter 2001, according to earnings reports.

The five cable MSOs that reported first-quarter earnings through last Wednesday — AT&T Broadband, AOL Time Warner Inc., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. — added 767,000 cable-modem customers for the period. That compares to 729,000 in first-quarter 2001 and 738,000 in fourth-quarter 2001, according to calculations from earnings reports.

In other words, the DSL growth rate at those four major telcos appears to have dropped by 6 percent on a year-over-year basis, and by 20 percent sequentially.

Aside from Adelphia Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. — which had not yet reported their earnings — modem subscribership was up 5 percent for the major MSOs on a year-to-year basis and 4 percent quarter-to-quarter, according to those calculations.

Comcast took a hit in the first quarter, when it was transitioning from Excite@Home Corp.'s modem platform to its own. Weekly run rates stood at 5,000 in January — at the start of the shift — and ramped up to 10,000 by March.

In fourth-quarter 2001, though, Comcast's weekly modem run rate was greater than 12,000 a week.

The four major telephone companies now have 4.1 million data subscribers. Cable's largest seven MSOs count about 7.7 million data subs.

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