USA - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 15 Dec 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 222

Winners of the RDOF auction announced

Growth in the US mobile subscriber base remains strong, with a penetration rate of about 135%. Declining revenue from voice services is compensated for by high growth in mobile data use, itself supported by upgraded networks based on LTE technologies. Smartphone penetration is also high, which had encouraged mobile data use among subscribers. The major operators, led by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US, have expanded their commercial 5G services and have also joined an international alliance to develop 6G, aiming to be at the forefront in determining technology standards and government policies.

Major recent developments include the conclusion of the auction for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in early December 2020, which aims to connect around 5.3 million unserved homes and businesses located in mostly rural areas.

Given the size of the US broadband market, and the growing demand for data on both fixed and mobile networks, there is continuous pressure for operators to invest in fibre networks, and to push connectivity closer to consumers. In recent years the US has seen increased activity from regional players as well as the major telcos and cablecos. Much of this activity was stimulated by Google Fiber following its investments in a number of markets. Although Google Fiber (now managed through Alphabet’s Access unit) began scaling back its efforts in late 2016, the company’s legacy has been profound. It encouraged the major providers to reduce pricing for their similar offers, stimulated interest among municipal leaders, and highlighted the fact that haphazard and potentially duplicated fibre deployments are no effective substitute for municipally-led wholesale fibre infrastructure accessible to any provider.

During a time when the resurgent Covid-19 virus is forcing many Americans to work and learn remotely, the incoming administration is considering a wide array of measures to extend the availability of broadband in rural areas, raise internet speeds for households, assist low-income households to pay internet bills, and provide more funding to schools for computers and other equipment. The incoming administration has also affirmed its commitment to universal broadband as part of a broader preview of its economic recovery agenda.

In November 2020, sixty groups representing educators and students called on Congress to release $12 billion in emergency funding for the E-Rate program to ensure that K-12 students can access the internet from home with appropriate devices.

There is growing recognition of the importance of a trans-sectoral approach to broadband networks, including the health, education and energy sectors, in order to fully realise the benefits of the nascent digital economy. The FCC’s Ninth Fixed Broadband report, published in August 2020, revealed how much still needs to be done to move the US broadband market forward.

This report provides analyses as well as key statistics and forecasts on the US mobile market. It also assesses telcos’ strategies, regulatory policies, and developments in the deployment of emerging technologies. In addition, the report covers the cable, DSL, FttP, Wi-Fi and WiMAX broadband markets, providing market analyses as well as a range of relevant statistics.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments:

  • Priority Access Licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz portion of the 3.5 GHz band (Auction 105) winners announced;
  • Verizon makes bid to acquire Tracfone;
  • US-based MNOs join alliance to develop 6G;
  • All but two BTOP programs projects have been completed;
  • Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I (Auction 904) winners announced;
  • SpaceX wins $885 million in federal subsidies to expand Starlink in the RDOF auction;
  • E-commerce sales for the third quarter of 2020 equalled 14.3% of total retail sales;
  • Groups representing schools, libraries and students request Congress to release $12 billion in emergency funding for the E-Rate program;
  • Infinera and Windstream complete live network trial achieving 800Gb/s single-wavelength transmission over 730km;
  • CenturyLink rebrands as Lumen Technologies
  • Google builds new subsea cable connecting US, UK and Spain;
  • Report update includes telcos' operating and financial data to Q3 2020, assessment of the global impact of Covid-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Corporation, T-Mobile US, TracFone, MetroPCS Communications, Leap Wireless, Frontline, Alltel, US Cellular, Clearwire, Google, CenturyLink, Qwest, Frontier Communications, Windstream, Fairpoint, Cincinnati Bell, Comcast, HughesNet, ViaSat, Altice USA, SpaceX, Lumen

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