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Comcast: The New Broadband King
Poised to surpass AT&T as nation's largest provider
by Karl Bode 12:47PM Wednesday Oct 29 2008 Tipped by caco See Profile
Comcast's third quarter earnings released today show that the company is weathering the economy rather well, losing 147,000 basic cable customers, but adding 417,000 digital cable subscribers. They also added 382,000 new broadband customers during the third quarter, more than AT&T (148,000) and Verizon (225,000) combined.

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Like last quarter, the numbers indicate that Comcast is winning the triple play battle. Why? VoIP. The cable giant continues its explosive VoIP growth, adding 483,000 VoIP customers on the quarter. Comcast was able to deploy VoIP more quickly than the telcos are able to deploy TV services, resulting in more customers looking Comcast's direction if they want a true triple play option.

That may reverse itself in time as U-Verse and FiOS TV reach more customers, but for the time being, Comcast is the dominant player in the broadband industry. The cable company now lays claim to 14.7 million broadband customers, just a hair shy of AT&T's 14.8 million subscribers. One more potent quarter like this one, and Comcast becomes the largest broadband provider in the United States in addition to being one of the largest and fastest growing phone companies.

The company's solidly positioned for the future as well, last week unveiling faster DOCSIS 3.0 speeds in a number of markets. The company is poised to deliver the faster speeds to twenty percent of their footprint by the end of this year, and all customers by the end of 2010. Their new 22Mbps/5Mbps and 50Mbps/10Mbps tiers match the fastest offered, and customers on existing tiers in those markets are seeing their speeds doubled (see forum discussion).

As far as the struggling economy goes, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts this morning gave himself a pat on the back during a conference call with analysts and the media. About a year ago, Roberts claims he "saw our world beginning to change," with "a softer economy with slower growth rates and also more competion." Pre-emptive adaptation is something Roberts credits his father for. "“He trained me always to be ready for even the most unexpected future and I think that’s a big reason why Comcast in in such a strong position today."

If Comcast has an Achilles' heel, it's that the company's immense size has so-far made quality control and customer service a real trouble spot. They're trying to address the issue by expanding support operations, and reaching out to annoyed customers before they become very angry customers. However, retention offers and a lack of competitive options help Comcast mitigate this problem. Another major question for Comcast is whether they can keep up on the wireless front, where incumbent telcos dominate.

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