The FCC quietly released its latest broadband subscriber report with details for year end 2010. What is most compelling, but not surprising, is the fact that subscribers of fixed and mobile broadband were also equal with fixed at 84.5 million and mobile at 84.4 million subscribers. Given the growth rate of mobile broadband (nearly 64% year-over-year), mobile broadband likely surpassed the fixed number during the 1st quarter of 2011.
The biggest differential between the two (fixed and mobile broadband) remains speed. At the end of 2010, 72% of mobile broadband subscribers had downstream speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less, versus only 14% of fixed broadband subscribers. Although there were a portion of mobile broadband subscribers that experienced downstream speeds between 6 Mbps and 10 Mbps, there were none that exceeded 10 Mbps. On the other hand, 10 Mbps-25 Mbps represented the largest portion of fixed broadband subscribers at 38%.
Let’s break this down a little bit more for fixed broadband. The FCC is generous enough to provide detailed information on downstream speeds by type of broadband and here is the distribution:
Source: FCC, broadbandtrends
As shown, Cable and FTTH clearly offer the highest downstream speeds. Cable represents 85% of all subscribers between 10Mbps-25Mbps, while FTTH is 12% and DSL is 3%. The “sweet-spot” for DSL remains between 1.5 Mbps-6 Mbps, with the majority of subscribers still receiving speeds below 3 Mbps, while cable has continued to move the benchmark higher and higher, with 91% greater than 3Mbps.
How are upstream speeds doing? It’s improving, but it still has a ways to go and services remains largely asymmetrical. At the end of 2010, 81% of subscribers had upstream bandwidth below 1.5 Mbps; while 15% were between 1.5 Mbps-3 Mbps, and the remainder were lucky enough to exceed 3 Mbps of upstream. There was definitely direct correlation between higher downstream bandwidth and higher upstream bandwidth. I would like to be one of the 41,000 who were receiving symmetrical 100Mbp services.
A few other highlights:
DSL is available to 84% of households, while cable is available to 97%
13 States had household penetration of 70% or greater – New Jersey was highest at 78%
New York had the highest number of FTTH subscribers, followed by California, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.
We still would like to see reporting by type of operator and more details on upstream/downstream – such as by type of broadband. Nonetheless, the information is helpful to provide a snapshot of broadband availability in the United States. Now if we could just get them to report it more timely – even if it is only at a high level.