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28 October 2009

Verizon slips behind AT&T pay TV install rate

AT&T seems to have overtaken the rate of sign up for its U-Verse IPTV system compared to the Verizon FiOS fiber to the home IPTV hybrid TV service, according to this quarter’s figures just out.

AT&T added 240,000 U-verse TV subscribers in the third quarter, up from 232,000 added in the year-earlier third quarter, to take it to 1.8 million in service. Meanwhile over the same period Verizon’s FiOS TV added just 191,000 homes taking it to 2.7 million total FiOS TV customers and 3.3 million FiOS broadband customers.

At that differential it would take AT&T about 5 to 6 years to catch up with Verizon in terms of signed TV customers though it may continue to accelerate.

What is perhaps more significant, although it may not make most headlines, is the 12.6 percent increase in consumer ARPU that Verizon FiOS clients bought. FiOS may now be developing more slowly, but it has been pushing triple play bundles and has FiOS ARPU to more than $137 per month. Although AT&T does not break out its wireline U-verse ARPU, we understand it to be considerably less than this figure, however it also said that it experienced 18.7% growth in wireline IP data
revenues due to U-Verse. AT&T also said that 75% of U-verse TV subscribers have taken a triple or quad-play option, although it has only really just launched Quad play deals.

The other battleground for the two major US operators was cellular with AT&T growing 2 million to a total of 81.6 million customers, up 6.7 million over the past year, while Verizon ended on 89 million wireless customers (86.3 million retail), up 6.3% over the past year. Their mobile churn was roughly in line, with AT&T on 1.43% (a record low) and Verizon on 1.49%.

Verizon quarterly revenues were $27.3 billion up 10% over this time last year through acquisitions, and AT&T’s were $30.9 billion down 1.6%. Verizon’s net income fell 9.8% to $2.9 billion, while AT&T’s net income fell 0.4% to $3.3 billion.

Both companies continue to lose wireline revenues and customers, but both are beginning to see their huge investments in pay TV services cement their customer base and at least slow the desertions down.

At Verizon the increase in FiOS customers more than offset the decrease in DSL customers and total wireline revenues were $11.6 billion, a fall of 4.8% from a year ago which is a 0.4% smaller decline than last quarter.

At AT&T the same story was in evidence, wireline is shrinking but not as fast as it was. AT&T had 45.7 million total consumer revenue connections at the end of the third quarter, compared with 46.3 million at the end of the second quarter and 47.5 million a year ago. So it’s losing lines a the rate of about 1.8 million a year ‘ still problematically fast.

AT&T’s U-verse deployment passed more than 20 million living units while FiOS is said to pass 14.5 million. Given there are around 111 million homes in the US, there’s an awful lot more work to be done here. AT&T says that it has signed 12% of the homes that it passes, and where the service has been around for 24 months or longer this is 20%. This compares with 24.9% for FiOS TV and 28.5% for FiOS internet.