There has been many predictions in a shrinking of the number of broadband providers, and with the regular announcements of acquisitions and mergers over the past year it is no surprise to see that figures published in June 2006 now look very different.
Getting accurate up to the date figures for the number of subscribers is difficult and relies on providers publishing its quarterly results, but relatively accurate figures are available for the large providers.
The pattern of providers acquiring others does look likely to continue as 2007 progresses, with rumours appearing weekly as to who is the next big target. What is interesting is the large gap between fifth, sixth and seventh places showing that any new entrants to the market have a big gulf to cross if they want to become a large nationally recognised broadband player. This is the situation Sky, Vodafone and O2 (via Be) probably find themselves in.
Last week saw Ofcom publish some research into what it calls 'niche Internet service providers'. The details of the research can be read at www.ofcom.org.uk. The 686 providers identified service around 30% of UK businesses and a smaller 5% of UK households. The value of this sector is not one to be sniffed at with 1.9 million customers creating a turnover of £1.15 billion each year. For those who read the full Ofcom document it is worth remembering that the data collection took place before the rate adaptive up to 8Mbps broadband products were widely available.
The Ofcom research was that 54% of those companies in the research try to offer a personal service, followed by quality of service and bespoke solutions as their key advantages compared to the larger providers.
Updated 31st January 2007: Added 259,000 customers on Sky Broadband.