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4G/3G/WiFi

Cable drove 33% of US mobile subscriber growth in Q3 – analyst

Mobile subscriber market share among US cable operators slowed a tad in Q3 2020 on a year-over-year basis, but Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA remain a significant source of industry growth, according to a new analysis from MoffettNathanson.

US cable drove 32.9% of mobile subscriber growth in Q3 2020, up from 30.6% in Q2 2020, but off from 34.8% a year ago.

Source: Company reports, MoffettNathanson estimates and
analysis.  
Click here for a larger version of this chart.
Source: Company reports, MoffettNathanson estimates and analysis.
Click here for a larger version of this chart.

Charter (+363,000 lines), Comcast (+187,000 lines), and Altice USA (+18,000 lines) combined to add 568,000 mobile lines in Q3, extending their grand total to 4.8 million mobile lines. Notably, Charter said its mobile business entered into EBIDTA-positive territory after crossing the 2 million mobile line threshold in the period.

In Q1 2020, cable operators actually accounted for more than all of the industry's phone subscriber growth in Q1 2020, but a more "normal" industry growth rate took hold in Q2 and Q3, Craig Moffett, analyst at MoffettNathanson, explained in the report.

"Cable's share of phone net additions fell back. Still, at 33% of the industry's net growth, Cable's share of growth in the second quarter remains significant," he added. "Absent the supernormal growth rates in phone subscriptions, one would expect that a new entrant taking this much of the industry's net growth would leave incumbents starved for unit growth, and would serve to ratchet competitive intensity higher."

However, subscription growth at T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T "has accelerated enough to blunt this impact," Moffett added.

Though US cable has risen as a formidable mobile challenger, T-Mobile is squarely in the driver's seat, securing Moffett's top pick in the US mobile sector.

"T-Mobile is well-positioned to grow both the top and bottom lines, with lower prices than rivals and yet, as is becoming increasingly clear, what is almost certain to be the industry's best network," Moffett wrote. "Going forward, their advantaged spectrum position promises genuine network superiority in 5G."

T-Mobile's networking positioning should, of course, benefit Altice USA, whose original MVNO agreement with Sprint has been transitioned into an MVNO pact with T-Mobile.

Comcast and Charter, meanwhile, have recently cut "expanded and extended" MVNO agreements with Verizon, Verizon EVP Ronan Dunne revealed at an investor event held last month.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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