Your Speed May Vary

Broadband subscriptions are increasing and narrowing the gap with dial-up modems, but not all high-speed connections are created equal.
All broadband is not created equal, as a comScore report finds that there is little consistency in the actual network speed delivered by cable modem and DSL providers, and the average cable modem connection was more than 50 percent faster than the average DSL connection.

Observed Network Speeds,
February 2003
Cable Modem
Provider Speed
Variance vs.
Industry Avg.
Cable Average - Home 708 N/A
Cablevision Systems 800 +13%
Comcast Cable 794 +12%
Cox Cable 688 -3%
Adelphia Cable 575 -18%
Provider Speed
Variance vs.
Industry Avg.
DSL Average - Home 467 N/A
ATT WorldNet 762 +63%
SBC 584 +25%
Earthlink 369 -21%
Qwest 240 -48%
Source: comScore Networks

While it may seem that dial-up is waning, in actuality 66.2 percent of U.S. home users still connect with modems. According to March 2003 figures from Nielsen//NetRatings, 53.26 percent use 56Kbps modems, 9.79 percent use 28/33.3Kbps, and 3.17 percent use 14.4Kbps modems.

Further supporting the proliferation of low-speed access is a 2003 report from MetaFacts based on nearly 25,000 surveys of U.S. adult Internet users. The study finds that only 9 percent of users have DSL and 16 percent have cable modems — up 2 percentage points in each case from 2002.

But the majority may quickly become the minority as analysis from Parks Associates reveals that 48.3 percent of U.S. households now using a dial-up Internet connection are interested in upgrading to broadband during 2003 — an almost 50 percent increase over 2002's 33.3 percent measurement.

Future intentions aside, broadband is already growing at a record pace, with 6.4 million new subscribers added in 2002, exceeding 2001's 5.4 million net additions, according to Leichtman Research Group (LRG).

The upward trend is expected to continue as LRG forecasts that the total number of broadband cable and DSL Internet subscribers in the U.S. will surpass the number of dial-up/narrowband subscribers in 2005 and will grow to nearly 49 million by the end of 2007.

"The expectations for broadband growth have come to fruition as 12 million U.S. subscribers have added DSL or cable Internet services in the past two years," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

Currently, the top cable modem providers account for over 11.25 million broadband Internet subscribers, maintaining a 65 percent share of the market versus DSL. Comcast leads the cable subscriptions with a total of more than 3.6 million, followed by Time Warner with over 2.6 million, and Cox with 1.4 million.

SBC holds the top position among the DSL providers with nearly 2.2 million, with Verizon closing in at almost 1.8 million. The bigger disparity between the two is in the net additions — SBC's 866,000 compared to Verizon's 598,000. Bell South rounds out the top three DSL providers with just over 1 million subscribers.

Total U.S. Broadband Picture, 2002
  Subscribers Year-End Net Adds
Top Cable Modem Providers 11,265,678 4,278,844
Top DSL Providers 6,145,182 2,120,866
TOTAL 17,410,860 6,399,710
Note: Top cable and DSL providers represent approximately 98% of all subscribers.
Source: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

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