• Survey: Interest in Google Fiber Strong Among Early Adopters

    Investment firm Bernstein Research has released the results of a proprietary door-to-door survey of 204 Kansas City households which reveals strong interest in Google Fiber service among early adopters, with potentially strong adoption rates among mainstream audiences longer-term as well.

    Bernstein found very high awareness of Google Fiber, with 98% of respondents being aware of the service, no surprise given the level of local coverage it has received. Of the 204 respondents, 52% said they would definitely or probably buy Google Fiber and 25% said they may.

    However, recognizing the difference between what people say they'll do vs. what they'll actually do, Bernstein forecasts that 15-20% of homes will in fact subscribe to Google Fiber in the first phase of its rollout. Given the uncertainties around competitive responses to Google Fiber, Bernstein is less clear about longer-term adoption, though it is suggesting 40-50% is possible eventually.

    The 15-20% initial take-up rate is in line with how I envisioned early adopters embracing Google Fiber when I wrote about it last July. The discontinuous benefit of 1 gigabit service will clearly appeal to early adopters, but will be harder to evaluate and value for more mainstream audiences (the key to pushing Google Fiber adoption beyond the 15-20%.

    I continue to believe that the primary reason a mainstream user will want 1 gigabit is when their online video streaming experience degrades, likely as multiple users simultaneously access the network. That is an edge case scenario today, especially as incumbent ISPs continue to expand bandwidth. As the survey also showed, friction around moving to Google Fiber is a real impediment, particularly for mainstream users. The top reasons holding respondents back were "it's expensive to switch" (29%), possibility they'll move (21%) and "it's time consuming to switch" (14%).

    That said, one of my other reasons for being skeptical Google Fiber would deeply penetration mainstream audiences was that it lacks a phone offering, which would mean mainstream "triple-play" customers (those subscribing to phone, broadband and pay-TV service from one provider such as Time Warner Cable or AT&T) would have to break up their bundle by moving to Google Fiber (i.e. keep their phone line with the incumbent and move broadband/pay-TV to Google Fiber).

    This may be less of a concern than I originally envisioned, as a highly surprising 58% of respondents said they only have a cell phone now. That's substantially higher than the 35-40% rate cited in CDC research on landline cord-cutting. To the extent that Google Fiber can tap into these homes without landlines, it could really boost its penetration.

    Surveys like Bernstein's provide new insights into how consumers are thinking about Google Fiber. Still, since actual consumer experience, and therefore anecdotal reference points are still limited, it's difficult to project actual penetration rates, either short or longer-term. No doubt Google Fiber is aiming to shake up the ISP/pay-TV market, but it's still way too early to judge how well they'll do.

     
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