October 13, 2005 10:14 AM PDT

Verizon's TV dreams

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reporter's notebook WALTHAM, Mass.--Who would have ever thought that a phone company would be providing TV service?

Not me, but that's exactly what's happening in select parts of the country where Verizon Communications, one of the four remaining offspring of the Ma Bell phone companies, is now offering its new Fios TV service to combat the growing competitive threat of cable companies.

A visit to Verizon's main research and testing facility here offers a glimpse at how the phone giant sees the future of television. Tucked away in the woods off Interstate 95 in suburban Boston is a mock-up of a house where new features and applications for Verizon's Fios TV service are tested by engineers and shared with select groups of customers.

Fios TV runs over a new fiber-optic network that Verizon is building throughout its territory. Designed to be connected directly to people's homes, the service launched last month in Keller, Texas, and it's expected to be in at least three other cities by the end of the year, with more to follow in 2006.

An IP revolution
Because Verizon is initially using the same broadcast technology used by cable and satellite providers, Fios TV doesn't look much different from what's in the market today. But executives say this is just the beginning. With nearly limitless capacity on the network provided by the new fiber-optic infrastructure, Verizon will be able to offer more interactive features using the Internet Protocol. Some programming, such as the video-on-demand service, is already IP-enabled in the current version of the service. More IP-based services will be added in the future.

"IP is definitely the future, and once the network is in place it will allow us to do all sorts of things," said Bill Garrett, director of broadband services for Verizon. "Right now, we're at the point where we're still trying to figure out what people want. We wanted to give people a service they were comfortable with and could use."

The main benefit of IP is that it will allow TV viewers to interact with television programming in ways they've never been able to before. Not only does this mean allowing people to watch what they want when they want, but it also means enabling them to access more and different kinds of content while they're watching TV.

The look of Fios TV

SBC Communications, which is running fiber only to the curb and not directly to homes, plans to go straight for IP-based TV when it launches its "U-Verse" service next year. SBC is using software developed by Microsoft. Carriers in other parts of the world, such as Bell Canada, Swisscom and Telecom Italia, also have been using Microsoft technology to build their IP TV networks. Verizon used Microsoft middleware to develop its program guide.

One of the new services currently being tested here is an interactive fantasy sports application that lets viewers compare statistics and keep track of points on their TVs while they're watching games. In designing the new service, Verizon has been careful not to overwhelm viewers with too much scrolling, button-clicking and reading on their screens.

"The first thing we learned from people we brought in here

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20 comments

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Fios already in Southern California
You guys might want to update your article since we already have fiber to the house from verizon in Murrieta and next month Temecula...
Posted by BartleyF (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Keller is first to get Fios TV
Verizon has deployed fiber in several places throughout the country and it's already offering high speed Internet connectivity in many of these places. The service I was referring to in this story is Fios TV. Right now Keller, Texas is the only place in the country where Verizon provides TV service.
Posted by MaggieReardon (140 comments )
Link Flag
Why switch?
Faster, cheaper, better broadband internet and TV too? I'd switch from Comcast in a millisecond.
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does this service provide faster internet?
If fios includes fiber optic wired right to your home, does it make the internet connection faster than standard broadband? Could Verizon send VOIP, TV and ultra-high bandwith broadband all across this service?
Posted by blindwisdom (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fios offers faster Internet connectivity
Yes, the Fios broadband service does offer faster speeds for Internet connectivity. Right now, subscribers can get 30mbps download speeds. But Verizon claims that the technology could scale as high as 100mbps into every home.
Posted by MaggieReardon (140 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, Verizon provides faster Internet access on fiber
Hi there -- I work for Verizon in media relations. The answer to your question is yes. Verizon began providing faster Internet access products via it's fiber directly into homes last year, before we began offering the TV product two weeks ago in Texas. We now offer three different speeds: up to 5,15 and 30 mb/s with upstream speeds of 2 mb/s for the first two products and five for the last product. These new FiOS broadband products are already available in over 700 communities across 15 states. The list of where it's available is growing daily.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
We've Been Needing Competition
For those of us in apartments who have no access to satellite because of location, cable companies have been our only option... and they know it. A comparable digital cable package is twice the price (circa $60 /month) of satellite service. I will be happy to switch to FiOS (for internet, voice, and video) when it becomes available, even if slightly more expensive, simply out of spite for Joe Cable (in my case, Comcast).
Posted by Quelix (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cust. Service: Proof is in the pudding
I had my FIOS installed in Falls Church, VA last March and it has been great. Indeed, the customer service during the install was noticably above average, and if they can follow through with that on the TV side it would make a difference. Big if though.

If they provide more features at a competitive cost and the installs get good work of mouth then they will have success.
Posted by bjglavin (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Customer Service Experience
On 10/24/05 a Dominion Virginia Power sub-contractor severed my Fios cable. As soon as I became aware of my loss of service, I contacted Verizon Customer Service.

They responded to the site in less than an hour to ascertain the damage and a repair crew was on site in less than two hours. They continued the repair during inclement weather into the evening to restore my service.

Every step of the service restoration was very professionally handled.
Posted by stumoulton (1 comment )
Link Flag
FIOS
Well the cable companies are selling phone services so why not have the phone company sell television services? I know for the last year or so they have been bundling satelite services (TV) and you know how unreliable that service can be compared to cable. A change that will lower the prices that have risen over the years will be welcome. Lets not see Verizon stick it to the consumers like the cable companies have done.
Posted by electorny (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
(FIOS-Ready) ?
O.K. so when will this be downsized to a card that plugs into the back of my Sony HDTV thats cable card ready. Hopefully this will be upgraded very soon to be two way. And I hope FIOS will be accessed via a two way card...
(FIOS-Ready)...
Posted by QuietStormX (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
verizon TV and internet service
Verizon has installed both internet service and TV service via fiber optics-EXTREMELY GOOD SERVICE- My TV now has a clearer picture.I am very satisfied.
Posted by proudvz (1 comment )
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Vrizon vs. Bell
Vrizon is OK, but Bell <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.highspeedsat.com/-express-vue/" target="_newWindow">http://www.highspeedsat.com/-express-vue/</a> satellite TV is much better.
Posted by finlandforum (10 comments )
Link Flag
Fios Tv not all great
Maybe someone else has the same problem as me. I have a brand new Samsung DLP Tv, and the picture I get from Fios is not at all what I hoped for. I had the techs. come out 3 times and they still can't get the picture right, even my HD channels don't look HD. I had Direct Tv before, but by the time I had the new tv I already had Fios, so I don't know if Direct Tv's picture would be better or what. If anyone has had a problem like this or has any advice please let me know. I want the best picture quility for my tv.
Posted by stepome (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The cables in the walls or ceiling
I just had the FIOS guy here installing my FIOS TV. We have a Samsung Flat screen too but the good news is that it is not your TV. We were getting the same result and until he clipped off and replaced a cable coax connector that was installed previously by cablevision.Before he did the quick connector replacement there were horizontal lines running upward and lots of visual noise. The problem was eliminated by replacing a bad connector. You see although FIOS is glass or fiberoptic to the home , inside they often utilize the existing coax cables to the Motorolla Fios HD TV box. Also if you use a switchbox like a psyclone or something be sure that you do not have more than one item turned on at a time. For instance the DVD player was making crazy lines and video noise for the xbob and so-on. Also be sure to use the new HDMi cable it is much clearer. So you see chances are that it is not the hardware but actually is the cable. One last thing , keep anything with a magnet (such as speakeers and game systems away from the TV. Ours is fine nowgoodluck.
Posted by revtwim (1 comment )
Link Flag
For Me It's Great
I have a Panasonic LCD RPTV and a Samsung DLP RPTV, and
things are AWESOME. I switched from DirecTV to FiOS because I
wanted more HD channels and better PQ, and that's what I got.
The SD channels are so-so, but the HD channels are clearly
better than DBS (their 1080i is only 1280x1080 scaled to 1920,
anyway). In fast action sequences there's still pixelation, but it's
better. Plus, because it's IP-based, it has fewer image dropouts
due to bad packets being able to be resent rather than lost. I
haven't seen any serious voids in the images since I've had FiOS
TV (only 1 1/2 weeks).

David
Posted by davidahn (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Upgrade over Comcast
With the Fios 'triple play' (fiber line phone, internet, tv)for $99, I decided to ditch Comcast because of my dissatisfaction with their customer 'service.' In one swell foop, I cut my tv bill to $0 for the next two years, and got a serious upgrade over Comcast in terms of both image quality and UI.

Though I don't own a digital TV, I have one of those 5-year-old Panasonic Tau TVs that can detect an HD signal and render a clearer picture. And the FiOS image I'm getting is significantly sharper and clearer than my Comcast image.

But I think a bigger improvement is in the UI, which is intuitive, flexible, full-featured, and delightfully graphic. I got it with the DVR box, and everything you expect is there: programmable favorites, record-to-DVR from the guide, live TV pause, and yes, the guide has page up-page-down functionality (it's the channel up/down button).

The remote, despite the usual surfeit of buttons, arrows and keys, is actually well designed and intuitive to use. It knows when you depress a button whether to send the signal to the box or the TV. No toggling as with my infuriating Comcast remote.

The only fly in the oatmeal was the cooling fan on the high def Motoroloa DCT6412 DVR set top box. But I fixed that with a $20 off-the-shelf laptop cooling pad (radio shack, circuit city, etc), which I placed 1" below the unit. Those silent 1500 rpm fans shut off the Moto fan within 15 seconds. It runs off one of the Moto's USB ports.

Our second TV is using a standard def set top box. But it can still record and playback via the main DVR set top. The in home FiOS local network is managed by a wireless router, which can also service any wireless macs or pcs you may have. It's a secure unit with it's own wep key, so your neighbors won't get free broadband at your expense.

Bottom line: FiOS, for me, was a major upgrade.
Posted by blauschwein (3 comments )
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