Analyst firm GlobalData forecast cable’s share of the U.S. broadband market will slide in the coming years as fiber and fixed wireless access (FWA) gain ground, but predicted the technology will still account for the vast majority of connections by 2027.
GlobalData’s latest report measures market share by access technology rather than type of operator. Cable’s total market share, including both residential and business connections, is expected to slide from an estimated 67.7% in 2022 to 60% in 2027. Meanwhile, fiber’s market share is expected to grow from 17.9% to 27.5% over the same period, while FWA’s share will climb from 1.9% to 10.6%.
Tammy Parker, a principal analyst at the firm, told Fierce the forecast is based on the assumption that existing cable networks will be upgraded to higher speeds with DOCSIS 4.0 and that cable operators will expand into new markets.
“Cable operators are continuing to engage in aggressive buildout plans,” she stated.
While cable operators will be up against new fiber players flush with private funding and government grants, she noted supply chain and workforce constraints could hamper the explosive fiber growth others have predicted.
“The BEAD funding rules do favor fiber, but new fiber network rollouts will likely be constrained by supply chain issues and shortages of trained labor,” Parker explained. “Additionally, customer signups for BEAD-funded fiber networks will take a while.”
Many fiber players have been talking up their ability to provide multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds as a key advantage over cable. That’s because DOCSIS 4.0 will enable download speeds of 10 Gbps but upload speeds of just 6 Gbps, compared to XGS-PON’s 10 Gbps both ways. And a recent survey found a significant portion of consumers would pay more for symmetrical tiers, especially when operators stress such capabilities in their marketing.
But by and large, Parker said the use cases just aren’t there for most consumers to make symmetrical speeds a top priority.
“Symmetrical broadband speeds are becoming more important as demand for faster upload speeds grows, but they are still not a must-have selling point for most residential customers,” she said. “Future applications, such as immersive AR/VR/metaverse experiences, will demand higher speeds overall than most current applications, but even then it is unlikely that they will require symmetrical speeds as downloaded content will likely continue to dominate the landscape.”
GlobalData’s forecast is the latest to try to sketch out cable’s future as buzz about fiber and fixed wireless grows louder.
A recent report from Kagan tipped cable companies to carry 61.9% of the U.S. residential broadband market by 2026, though it was not immediately clear if this was referencing the companies themselves or the technology used. Earlier this month, Point Topic forecast the number of U.S. broadband subscribers using DOCSIS technology would fall from 80 million at the end of 2021 to just 40 million by end-2030 as fiber assumes a dominant position. And in January, Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton told Fierce fiber’s U.S. market share is expected to rise drastically from around 20% currently to become the only market share player over the coming years.
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