Rogers Communications Inc. reported better-than-expected fourth quarter growth in its high-speed Internet business yesterday, signing up 56,000 new customers during a period marked by uncertainty and service problems.
The increase represents a 40-per-cent jump on the 40,000 Internet subscribers the company signed up during the same three-month period in 2000. As of Dec. 31, the Toronto cable, cellphone and media company had 479,000 Internet customers, 50.6 per cent more than the 318,000 customers the company had in 2000.
The preliminary subscriber results released yesterday follow a chaotic fall for Toronto-based Rogers and its chief U.S. Internet partner At Home Corp. In September, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company filed for bankruptcy protection. Thousands of Rogers subscribers experienced service problems as the company struggled to switch over customers' e-mail addresses from @home.com to @rogers.com.
About 80 per cent of Rogers customers have switched addresses over the past six weeks and the company expects to transfer all e-mail addresses by the end of January. At Home will continue to operate through the end of February.
Rogers' high speed growth "is especially impressive given what's been going on over the last few months," said Brahm Eiley, president of The Convergence Consulting Group Ltd. The Toronto consulting firm had forecast Rogers to sign up about 460,000 new customers in the most recent quarter.
Growth in the company's wireless cellular phone business exceeded expectations too. Rogers Wireless Inc. added 180,200 new customers in the quarter, well ahead of brokerage UBS Warburg Inc.'s forecast of 150,000 new customers. As of Dec. 31, the wireless company had about three million subscribers, a 19-per-cent gain on the 2.5 million at the end of 2000.
Rogers Cable installed about 28,000 new digital set-top terminals in the quarter to end 2001 with about 314,000 digital boxes deployed. In the comparable period of 2000, the company added 31,000 digital television boxes for a total of 201,000 installed boxes. Rogers' traditional cable TV business was virtually unchanged, with the company reporting 2,286,000 basic cable subscribers in 2001 compared with 2,291,000 a year ago.
The preliminary numbers are expected to be confirmed on Feb. 22 when Rogers and Rogers Wireless release their fourth-quarter results.