The US still trails its OECD counterparts in terms of broadband penetration, speed and affordability. Nevertheless, the market is currently witnessing significant investment activity in fibre deployments, HFC upgrades with DOCSIS3.1 technology, and mobile broadband networks. Much of the investment in fibre is being undertaken by a significant number of smaller players and municipalities rather than the two key telcos, AT&T and Verizon, which are concentrating on a hybrid fibre/copper network and limiting future upgrades beyond what has already been achieved. Indeed these operators have emphasised their wireless focus in recent years, which has meant that cablecos have made most of the gains in new broadband subscriber adds in recent quarters.

Broadband services in most regions still lack effective competition, with an effective duopoly operating in many areas of the country. Municipal activity, often geared at breaking this stranglehold and introducing competition and innovation, continues to be stymied by lobbying pressure from the main telcos. However, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan envisages a greater role for public FttP networks in the pursuit of its goals, and in the activities of muni-networks will form a large part of the patch-work fibre deployments across the country in coming years.

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 2016 Broadband Progress Report reveals how much still needs to be done to move the US broadband market forward.

Given the size of the US market, and the growing demand for data on both fixed and mobile networks, there is continuous pressure for operators to invest in fibre backhaul networks and to push connectivity closer to consumers. In recent years the US has seen increased activity from regional players such as Google, with its successful investments in a number of markets.

Growth in the US mobile subscriber base remains strong despite penetration levels of above 110%. Declining revenue from voice services is compensated for by high growth in mobile data use, itself supported by excellent networks supporting LTE-based services and the high penetration of smartphones, which is more than 90% for some carriers. Mobile data use will grow more rapidly after 2018 when 5G services, due to be trialled later in 2016 by at least three network operators, become commercially viable.

A major development into 2016 will be the auction for spectrum in the 600MHz, and the use made network operators of their concessions. In addition, there is strong support for the use of unlicensed spectrum for LTE, though detractors have expressed concern that congested airwaves could impact on Wi-Fi services.

For more information see - USA - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses