Cable's encroachment of the US mobile market stayed strong in the fourth quarter of 2021, as Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA combined to add a record 697,000 mobile lines in the period, ending 2021 with a combined 7.73 million.
Among individual operators, Comcast added 312,000 mobile lines in Q4, for a total of almost 4 million, while Charter tacked on 380,000, for a total of 3.56 million. Altice USA, which intends to turn up the wireless heat this year as it nears a new MVNO agreement with T-Mobile, signed on just 5,000 lines in Q4 2021, bringing its total to 186,000.
US cable represented 29.2% of domestic wireless industry phone net adds in Q4 2021, according to a new report (registration required) from MoffettNathanson. That result was slightly down from 30.5% in the year-ago period, and well ahead of the 20.9% culled in Q3 2021.
MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett noted that he's seen increased "promotionality" from Comcast's Xfinity Mobile, though its offers remain modest when compared to those from incumbent mobile operators. Spectrum Mobile's record result followed the launch of unlimited family plan pricing last October.
"We believe these trends will continue as wireless has become a significant strategic focus for Cable operators," Moffett noted. "Both Charter and Comcast expect faster growth in 2022 than in 2021." Meanwhile, Cox Communications is poised to join the mix after winning an important court decision that will enable Cox to launch a mobile service with Verizon as its MVNO partner.
Moffett also views US cable as an alternative to T-Mobile at the low end of the market, suggesting that T-Mobile will now have to "share" that piece of the market with the MSOs.
In his broader view of the mobile industry, Moffett noted that US incumbent service providers generally lack pricing power, and will be hard-pressed to retain recent subscriber growth in general, and in the face of rising competition from MSOs.
"Much of the industry's growth is already going to cable operators, and among the 'incumbents' only T-Mobile is showing healthy overall metrics," the analyst wrote.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading