Comcast outpaces AT&T for new broadband subs
By Mike Robuck
Boston-based Strategy Analytics said in a recent report that Comcast and AT&T were in a virtual dead heat a year ago when each had roughly 9 million broadband subscribers.
Since then, Comcast has moved to the front of the pack due to its 3 million net new subscription increase compared to the second quarter a year ago.
The growth translates into a 32 percent year-over-year growth rate compared to 22 percent for AT&T. Collectively, the top three North American operators maintain a 45 percent market share.
“As expected, sequential quarterly growth decelerated for the top North American broadband service providers in Q2 ‘07,” said Ben Piper, director of the Strategy Analytics Broadband Network Strategies Service, in a prepared statement. “The slowdown for AT&T and Verizon can be attributed to their respective fiber rollouts - we anticipate increased momentum in the coming quarters as these deployments go live.”
According to Strategy Analytics, cable continues to lead the U.S. broadband access market by commanding 54 percent of total subscriptions.
Dish offers HD subscribers deal on Sharp TVs
By Mike Robuck
The promotional offer runs through Jan. 31. Both current and new qualifying Dish HD customers can get up to $800 in savings on a variety of Sharp’s flat panel TVs. The screen sizes range from 26 inches up to 65 inches with full HD 1080p resolution. The promotion also includes free delivery within qualifying areas of the continental United States.
“Savvy consumers know Dish Network offers the best value in entertainment, and this exciting promotion complements the unparalleled viewing experience our customers already enjoy,” said Jessica Insalaco, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Dish Network, in a prepared statement. “Combined with our industry-leading HD programming and DVRs, these attractive discounts provide our customers with the perfect opportunity to bring the HD viewing experience to every room in the home, just in time for football season and fall TV premieres.”
Cable operators and satellite providers have worked diligently this year to increase their HD offerings as customers buy more HDTV sets.
Dish offers 70 HD channels including 39 national HD channels as well as HD local channels available in more than 50 percent of U.S. households, 18 regional sports networks in HD and nine HD pay-per-view channels. DishHD is available free for six months to new customers, and new Dish subscribers may also receive a free upgrade to the company's HD DVR receivers.
SK Telecom coughs up $270M to float Helio
By Brian Santo
With the investment, SK Telecom will clinch greater control of the venture. Precisely how that plays out is still being negotiated, though, according to EarthLink.
Whatever success Helio is experiencing has not been enough to offset mounting losses, and EarthLink is unwilling or unable to devote more of its own money to the venture.
Helio ended August with 130,000 subscribers, according to EarthLink, which alluded to “growth and usage metrics of its core services far above industry averages in most areas.”
Helio expects to end the year with between 200,000 and 250,000 subscribers. If that goal is met, Helio’s yearly revenue will be between $140 million and $170 million, but its net loss will be between $340 million and $360 million, EarthLink said.
“We are very pleased that with SK Telecom's funding, Helio will be able to move forward with its innovative business plan without the need for further investment by EarthLink, while continuing to allow our company to have a substantial ownership interest in Helio's future," said Rolla P. Huff, EarthLink president and CEO.
Stuck in the Net's slow lane
Copyright 2007 St. Louis Post-Dispatch Inc.
By Tim Logan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Peter Van Horne lives four miles outside Farmington, Mo., little more than an hour's drive from downtown St. Louis.
But when it comes to the Internet, he might as well be in another world. The best he can do is slow dial-up.
E-mailing large photos risks crashing his computer. Taking a course online is enormously complicated.
And watching video? Forget it.
"Some things we simply cannot do," Van Horne said.
And he's not alone. Van Horne and his wife, both Episcopal ministers, are two of an estimated 1.2 million Missourians with no access to high-speed Internet, according to a study issued this week by the state's Public Service Commission.
Most live on the fringes of small towns and in isolated communities where telephone companies haven't extended their broadband networks. And as more and more business, and life, gets conducted online, they risk falling further and further behind, said Robert Clayton, the PSC commissioner who sponsored the study.
"It limits economic opportunity," Clayton said. "It means fewer opportunities for working from home, for doing advanced applications. And why would a business relocate to a community that doesn't have high-speed Internet?"
According to the report, based on a survey the PSC conducted of telephone and cable companies across Missouri, just 61 percent of homes in communities smaller than 15,000 people had access to a broadband connection. In St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, that number was 93 percent.
There's one big reason, experts say: money. It just costs too much to build DSL lines across the state's vast rural stretches.
"That's it in a nutshell," said AT&T spokesman Kerry Hibbs. "It's expensive making the investment, especially where you know you're not going to make a lot of money because there aren't a lot of people out there to support it."
AT&T is working to upgrade 42 central offices in rural Missouri to include DSL. It announced the plan in May, as part of a $335 million investment statewide, and hopes to finish by late next year. Still, Hibbs acknowledged, that won't make a big dent in the state's half-million DSL-less homes. A home must be within 14,000 feet of a central office to get DSL, leaving wide swaths untouched.
Smaller phone providers have been more aggressive in rolling out DSL, Clayton's study found, with access to 80 percent of rural households, compared with 59 percent from heavyweights AT&T, CenturyTel and Embarq in the rural areas they serve.
Cable companies have been helpful in cities and suburbs, but their networks often don't stretch beyond the city line. And many say satellite-based Internet is still too costly and unreliable.
A big part of the answer may lie in local solutions, said Russell Kremer, president of the Missouri Farmers Union, such as a 10-county cooperative under way in eastern Illinois.
But whatever works, something needs to be done soon, he said, if Missouri's rural economy hopes to revive and its small towns hope to plug in to a global economy.
"In my opinion," Kremer said, "the educational and informational divide is getting greater by the day."
Broadband Briefs for 9/21/07
* Airspan sells $30M in stock
By Brian Santo
Wireless network specialist Airspan Networks announced it has sold 15 million shares of common stock, at $2.00 per share, in a public offering. Proceeds will be used to fund the continued expansion of the company's WiMAX business and for general corporate purposes.