Cable broadband is underpriced, and operators should aim for $90 ARPU target, analyst says

Modem

Cable broadband is underpriced relative to all the functionality it’s delivering to consumers these days, argued New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin, and needs to increase its average revenue per user.

“We have argued that broadband is underpriced, given that pricing has barely increased over the past decade while broadband utility has exploded,” Chaplin wrote in a note to investors today.

“Our analysis suggested a ‘utility-adjusted’ ARPU target of ~$90,” he added. "Comcast recently increased standalone broadband to $90 with a modem, paving the way for faster ARPU growth as the mix shifts in favor of broadband-only households. Charter will likely follow, once they are through the integration of TWC."

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The argument that operators should be charging more for broadband services and not less runs counterintuitive to criticism of smaller MSOs like Cable One, which has caught flak in recent months from other analysts for generating a $63.53 ARPU in a largely poor, rural footprint that doesn’t include a lot of options for high-speed internet. 

Chaplin, meanwhile, also addressed the issues of cord-cutting and over-the-top distribution, noting that the cable industry is largely “protected.” 

For one, he argued, cable operators like Comcast are actually growing share in pay-TV as telco and satellite TV companies endure huge customer losses. For another, Chaplin said that cable operators simply aren’t making that much money from pay-TV these days.