Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA, news, filings) today staked a claim to the #3 slot in US home phone subscribers, based on its current 6.47M as compared with the 5.96M of q. Of course, in terms of total phone lines Qwest has 6.5M, and it isn't clear to me which number Comcast is comparable to. What does it matter? It doesn't. Whether this milestone was passed or will be passed is irrelevant, the trend is clear. Qwest is losing landlines steadily while Comcast is gaining them just as steadily, and therefore it was a foregone conclusion that this day would come. It doesn't seem likely that they will catch the big two any time soon, so the new 1-2-3 lineup is probably a done deal for a long time.
It does emphasize just how completely the MSOs won the VoIP wars. By contrast, former media princess Vonage (NYSE:VG, news, filings) turned in its first ever sequential customer decline in Q4, an event that almost passed without notice. They sit at 2.607M subscribers. When you have that kind of scale and still can't turn a profit, something surely has gone terribly wrong. But we knew that.
What strikes me about where we are with VoIP, 5 years after I first bought my Packet8 line, is that it still looks so much like the same phone service people have been buying for fifty years. I once thought the change to VoIP would bring innovation back, enable new voice applications, new products. But what we have gotten is really limited to cost savings for the PBX and the ability to buy voice from the cable company. Of all the plans and dreams, only Skype really succeeded in staking out new territory. Yes there are still some startups looking to change the trend, but still...
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