Verizon Fios is a service offered by Verizon Communications that provides high speed Internet, digital TV, and telephone service over a single fiber optic cable. The term “Fios” stands for “Fiber Optic Service”.
The idea behind Fios and fiber deployments in general is the ability to serve multiple advanced digital services through a single fiber optic connection. In the case of Verizon Fios, a single fiber optic cable can provide up to 940 Mbps Internet service, over 385 digital TV channels including 125+ HD channels plus 18,000+ titles available on demand, and an industry-leading digital voice service. Additionally, 500 Mbps+ synchronous broadband speeds are available, and it is worth noting that over 2800 monthly on demand offerings are presented in HD. While both Fios Internet and Fios TV can be ordered as standalone products, Verizon provides significant discounts to customers that bundle services.
Verizon Fios is currently available in parts of California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. Residents of Conneticut and South Carolina have much broader access to Verizon Fios service than residents of other states, so long as they live within the city limits of larger towns and cities. In total, Verizon Fios is available to approximately 15.5 million premises within those states as of July 2009. This equates to about 34 percent of the households in Verizon’s wireline network footprint. Verizon has plans to keep Fios deployment on a fast track with deployment reaching over 17 million homes by the end of 2010.
In a deal announced May 13th, 2009, Frontier Communications will acquire all of Verizon’s local wireline operations in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and some rural parts of California bordering Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. This means that current Verizon customers in those states will see very little if any future Fios deployment. Instead Verizon wants to focus on it’s core Fios areas. By the end of 2010, with the sale to Frontier complete, Verizon expects to have Fios available to about 70% of its total network footprint. At present, the Fios availability is rated at approximately 48% of Verizon’s total network footprint.
Within the states that Verizon plans to continue Fios deployments, it can be very difficult to know when Fios will be available at any given residence or business. One telltale sign is lots of digging in your neighborhood followed by frequent sightings of Verizon trucks. Once a neighborhood appears to be complete in may be weeks or months before the system actually accepts an order for any given address. The only way to know is to try one’s address on service availability form.
For the most part Verizon Fios will only be available where Verizon is the current local phone company (incumbent local exchange carrier). In general, any given area will have only one incumbent local phone company. If that’s not Verizon, you probably won’t see Verizon Fios anytime soon.
Physical deployment of the Fios network means laying fiber down every street that is to get coverage. Fios TV service must get approval from local and/or state regulators before it can be offered for sale. Multi-dwelling units require custom installations and agreements with property owners before Fios can be deployed, though recent legal challenges may change this over the course of 2010.
Verizon Fios is the first major deployment of Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) in the United States. FTTP is a network architecture where an optical fiber is terminated at or outside the customer’s premises. The significance of a major FTTP deployment like Verizon Fios is the fact that it replaces an aging copper network that in some cases has been used for over a hundred years. All-new fiber networks enable consumers to go way beyond the physical limitations of copper.
Fios uses a passive optical network (PON) to distribute service. Initial Fios installation used BPON transfer mode where a single fiber optical cable is capable of 155 Mbps upstream, and 622 Mbps downstream. All current Fios deployments use GPON, which provides increased bandwidth limits of 1.2Gbps upstream and 2.4Gbps downstream. In addition to the data bandwidth, the same fiber also carries 870 MHz of bandwidth for RF Video (TV channels).
Starting at a local Verizon central office, a single fiber optic cable is run to a fiber distribution hub at the neighborhood level where it can be split for up to 32 subscribers. When a consumer orders Fios service, a fiber optic cable is run to their premises and terminated at an Optical Network Terminal (ONT). There are few different ONT’s being used by Verizon for Fios installations. The most common is the 1600 series ONT manufactured by Tellabs. These ONT’s provides a RJ45 Ethernet jack for data traffic, a coaxial terminal for TV signal distribution, and up to four telephone ports for voice.
In 2009, Verizon tested a new 10Gbps fiber optic connection to a test-facility. This is not only a landmark achievement, but it is a strong indicator as to which technologies Verizon is considering for future deployments.
With Fios, Verizon is able to offer internet connections with much more bandwidth than is typically possible with DSL service or cable broadband. For most areas where Fios is available, consumer’s can choose from three tiers. Verizon Fios Internet plans and pricing are provided as follows:
- 50/50 Internet (download up to 50Mbps, upload up to 50Mbps), starting at $39.99/mo
- 500/500 Internet (download up to 500Mbps, upload up to 500Mbps), starting at $74.99/mo
- Gigabit Connection(download up to 940Mbps, upload up to 880Mbps), starting at $79.99/mo
The aforementioned prices offered to all Fios customers regardless of area, but some areas actually have lower pricing. Installation fee is waived with online orders (otherwise $99.99).
Like most internet service providers, Verizon Fios Internet includes numerous features at no extra cost. These include 24/7 tech support, personal web space, and multiple email accounts (up to nine). Additional specialized features are available for an additional cost. These include Verizon Internet Security Suite, Verizon Games on Demand, and Movies on Demand with Starz® Play. Verizon also adds features over time, such as widgets, that may offer additional functionality over the web at no additional charge.
In recent months, the internet speed competition has started to heat up. While Verizon claims to have the capacity to deliver 400 Mbps to a single home, the fastest tier available at this time is only 50 Mbps. This is probably due to marketing strategies and consumer demand. In April 2009, Cablevision introduced a 101 Mbps internet service plan for $99.95/mo to go one up on Fios in the state of New York. However, Cablevision’s fine print reveals there is a $300 activation fee for that plan. Faster plans from Verizon Fios are definitely in the works, but only time will tell when they’ll go public.
As of July 2009, Verizon is including Verizon Wi-Fi with many of its home internet plans. For Fios, the mid-tier and faster internet plans include Verizon Wi-Fi at no additional cost. Verizon WiFi is a nationwide network of wireless hot spots. You can get free internet for your wireless-enabled laptop or netbook at thousands of locations including hotels, airports, restaurants, and coffee shops. Operating system restrictions do, however, apply.
Verizon first introduced Fios TV service in the fall of 2005. Since then, the service has grown to include over 320 digital channels, and over 100 HD channels. The Fios TV plans and pricing are as follows:
- Fios TV Preferred HD, starting at $74.99/mo
- Over 255 channels, including many in HD
- Local channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox
- Access to On Demand thousands of titles
- Must-have programming from ESPN, Discovery, TNT, USA, MTV, CNN and more!
- Fios TV Extreme HD, starting at $84.99/mo
- Over 330 channels including 65+ HD channels and growing
- Commercial free music with 47 Music Choice channels and 48 Urge Radio channels
- Access to On Demand with over 18,000 titles
- National and regional sports channels
- Fios TV Ultimate HD, starting at $89.99/mo
- Over 425 channels including 90+ HD channels
- Access to On Demand with over 18.000 titles
- Access to Showtime, The Movie Channel, and Flix
- Fios TV Mundo, starting at $49.99/mo
- Over 200 channels including up to 5 HD channels
- More than 25 of the hottest Spanish-language channels
- More than 35 of the most popular English channels
- local channels like Telemundo, Univision and Telefutura
Channel lineups vary slightly by area, and you can see the channel lineup available in your area, with the lookup tool on Verizon’s site: Fios TV Channel Lineup. Verizon Fios TV is one of the leaders when it comes to HD channel offerings. The following table shows the 95 “Ulimate” HD channels available in New York City as of February 2010.
|A&E HD||ABC – WABC HD||ABC Family HD||ABC Live Well (in HD)||AMC HD|
|Animal Planet HD||Big Ten Network HD|| Bio: The Biography Channel
|CBC – WCBS HD||CMT HD||CNBC HD+||CNN HD||Comedy Central HD|
|Comedy.TV||CW – WPIX HD||Discovery Channel HD||Disney Channel HD||Disney XD HD|
|ES TV||ESPN HD||ESPN U HD||ESPN2 HD||ESPNews HD|
|Food Network HD||FOX – WNYW HD||Fluse HD||FX HD||Golf hannel HD|
| Hallmark Movie Channel
|HD Net||HD Net Movies||HD Theatre||HGTV HD|
|History Channel HD||HSN HD||Lifetime HD|| Lifetime Movie Network
|MAV TV HD|
|MGM HD||MLB Network HD||MSNBC HD||MTV HD||My – WWOR HD|
|MyDestination.TV|| National Geographic Channel
|NBA TV HD||NBC – WNBC HD||NFL Network HD|
|NFL Red Zone HD||Outdoor Chanel HD||Palladia HD||PBS – WNET HD||Pets.TV|
|Planet Green HD||QVC HD||Recipe TV||Science Channel HD||Showtime 2 HD|
|Showtime 2 HD West||Showtime Extreme HD||Showtime Extreme HD West||Showtime HDTV||Showtime HDTV West|
|Showtime Showcase HD|| Showtime Showcase HD
|Smithsonian Channel HD||Speed HD||Spike TV HD|
|SportsNet NY HD||SyFy HD||TBS HD||Tennis Channel HD||The Movie Channel HD|
| The Movie Channel HD
| The Movie Channel Xtra
| The Movie Channel Xtra
|The Weather Channel HD||TLC HD|
|TNT HDTV||Travel Channel HD||Universal HD||USA HD||Versus HD|
|VH1 HD||WE tv HD||Wealth TV HDTV||WGN America HD||WNJN HD|
| World Fishing Network
|Yes HD 1||Yes HD 2|
Since Fios TV uses a unique blend of technology, specialized equipment is required to access the full channel lineup and additional features. TV’s that have a built-in QAM tuner can access the local channels and music channels without any additional equipment. All other TV’s will need a set top box or CableCard from Verizon. Verizon charges a monthly fee to lease each set top box. The equipment options and pricing are as follows:
- HD DVR set top box, $12/mo
- access channels in standard and high definition
- exclusive Interactive Media Guide
- access to On Demand content
- access to Fios Widgets
- pause and rewind live TV
- record up to 80 hours of SD programming and/or 20 hours of HD programming
- record up to 2 shows simultaneously
- Home Media DVR set top box, $19.99/mo
- same features as HD DVR
- access recorded shows from any set top box in the house
- pause a program in one room and continue viewing it in another
- access photos and music stored on your computer
- Digital Adapter, $3.99/mo
- access channels in standard definition
- CableCard, $3.99/mo
- access channels in standard and high definition
- for use with CableCard Ready televisions or TiVo
- single-stream and multi-stream cards available
The HD capable set top boxes have both an HDMI and component video outputs. The DVR set top boxes have USB, IEEE 1394 (firewire) ports, and some have an E-SATA port, however external hard drives are not currently supported, so recording capacity is limited to the built-in 160GB hard drive. For reasons that may have to do with pressure from the television networks, the recording capacity on the Fios DVR has not seen an upgrade since inception.
The Home Media DVR can communicate with multiple other set top boxes without any additional wiring. This allows any set top box in the home to access recorded content on a single DVR. Up to three different recordings can be played back on different TV’s at the same time from one Home Media DVR. Standard definition set top boxes are limited to recordings that were recorded from an SD channel. In other words an HD recording can not be downscaled for playback on a standard definition set top box.
Premium channels are available for an additional cost. Those packages and pricing are as follows:
- HBO, $16.99/mo
- 14 HBO channels including HBO Family and HBO Latino
- 14 additional HD channels of HBO
- HBO On Demand included
- Movie package, $15.99/mo
- 45 Premium Channels including SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL®, ENCORE®, FLIX®, IFC™ and SUNDANCE®
- Includes Premium HD channels and On Demand channels
- Cinemax, $11.99/mo
- 12 Cinemax channels
- 12 additional HD channels of Cinemax
- Cinemax on Demand included
- EPIX, $9.99/mo
- Access to over 150 Hollywood blockbusters, concerts, and comedy events every month
- EPIX offers the most movies in HD On Demand and Online of any premium service.
- EpixHD.com, free with your subscription, includes movie-viewing features like a screening room to watch and chat online with friends, and tons of exclusive extras.
- Spanish Language, $11.99/mo
- 27 popular channels including Univision and Galavision
- WWE, $9.99/mo
- Karaoke, $7.99/mo
- Disney Family Movies, $5.99/mo
- The Jewish Channel, $5.99/mo
- Bollywood TV, Music & Movies, $7.99/mo
- HBO and Cinemax, $22.99/mo
- HBO, Cinemax, and Movie Package, $36.00
- NBA League Pass, $99.00/mid season
- ESPN Full Court $79.00/mid-season
- NHL Center Ice, $119.80/season
- Setanta Sports, $14.99/mo
- International Channels, individually priced
In addition to programming, Fios TV offers some exclusive features like the Interactive Media Guide. This is the graphical user interface provided with the service. It is an on screen programming guide that displays programming information and channel logos in a polished user friendly display. It also accesses your recorded shows, the On Demand library, an interactive search, and it allows you to customize different settings such as parental controls. Within the Interactive Media Guide, you can also setup Fios Widgets. Fios Widgets provide one-click access to horoscopes, weather forecasts, traffic information, and stock quotes. The What’s Hot widget displays the most watched programs in your area in real time.
Recent additions to the Fios TV Widgets include Facebook and Twitter widgets, which allow Fios TV users to view and update their Facebook or Twitter accounts, view photos on Facebook, and watch Twitter updates about a TV show as you’re watching the show. Through the Fios TV Widget Bazaar and a Fios TV SDK, Verizon is planning to open up Fios TV Widget development to third parties in the very near future.
Through Verizon’s Fios TV Central website, you can remotely manage your Fios DVR and set shows to record. The service allows customers to remotely review, change or add scheduled recordings, delete recorded programs, browse and search TV and video on demand listings, and set parental controls. The mobile version of the site brings this capability to most web-enabled phones. The remote DVR management service is available to all Fios TV DVR users at no extra charge.
Fios Phone Service (Digital Voice)
Fios Digital Voice phone service is a new level of voice service developed exclusively for the Fios network. It is currently available in limited areas in the northeast. There are plans to roll out the service nationwide wherever Fios is available, but a timetable is not known. Technically Fios Digital Voice is a VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, but will likely provide a much more reliable connection and higher quality of service than what is traditionally expected from VOIP service. It will also include tons of features like caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, and voicemail. Fios Digital Voice is a big deal because its essentially set to replace Verizon’s current voice systems which have been in use for decades. It will offer more features and will be priced lower than current landline service.
Installation of Fios can be a lengthy process. Most users report an installation time of 4-8 hours depending on the skill of the technician and the on-site conditions. Often a subcontractor for Verizon will come out before the scheduled Fios installation to bury the fiber optic cable on your property. It won’t be connected however, until the Verizon technician arrives on your scheduled day.
First the technician will mount a Optical Network Terminal (ONT) on your home. This is usually done near the existing phone demarkation point, which is usually outside. Next the technician will install a battery backup unit (BBU). The easiest location for this unit is directly inside from the ONT. The BBU will need to plug-in to an existing electrical outlet in your home. The necessity of a battery backup is probably the lone disadvantage to using fiber optics in place of copper wiring. The battery backup unit is designed to provide phone service for up to 8 hours during a power outage.
Next up is inside wiring. If your home has existing cat5 cable or rg6 coaxial cable, the technician will make use of it. The router is usually setup next to your main computer and will require either a cat5 or rg6 cable wired back to the ONT. The Verizon branded wireless-G router is likely to be either an Actiontec MI424WR or a Westell UltraLine Series3 9100EM. By default the routers are enabled for wireless using WEP security and the security key is printed on a sticker on the router. For increased security, it’s a good idea to change the security to WPA2 with a new passkey.
Just like any other cable or satellite installer, the Verizon technician will use whatever he can of your existing coaxial wiring for connecting all TV’s in the house. If you’ve asked for a TV to be hooked up where there is no existing wiring, the technician will charge $54.99 for this service. Otherwise installation is free for up to three TV’s with existing wiring.
Once everything is wired up, the technician will spend the rest of the time setting up and activating your equipment. Every set top box must be working correctly before he’s on his way.
Installation of Fios in multi-dwelling buildings like apartments can be a bit more complex. Luckily there are newer and smaller ONT’s designed to ease installations like these. The new ONT’s are about the size of a home router and are for indoor use, unlike the standard ONT that is usually mounted on the outside of a home. Verizon has two options for the smaller ONT’s: the Alcatel-Lucent I-21 1M-K indoor ONT, and the Motorola ONT 1000 GTI indoor ONT.
Customers (as of December 31st 2009)
- Fios Internet: 3.43 million (up 31% in last year)
- Fios TV: 2.86 million (up 46% in last year)
Fios Availability (as of December 31st 2009)
- Fios Internet: 12.2 million premises (28.1% of Verizon’s footprint)
- Fios TV: 11.7 million premises (24.5% of Verizon’s footprint)
Penetration (as of December 31st 2009, Penetration = Fios customers/number of premises where Fios is available)
- Fios Internet: 28.1 %
- Fios TV: 24.5%
Fios shows very strong growth. Compare those numbers to the cable companies:
Comcast Cable Customers
- broadband: 15.3 million (up 6.6% in last year)
- video: 23.9 million (down 3% in last year)
Time Warner Cable Customers
- residential broadband : 8.8 million (up 7.8% in last year)
- video: 13.3 million (down 2% in last year)
Cablevision (Optimum) Customers
- broadband: 2.5 million (up 4.5% in last year)
- basic video: 3.1 million (down 1.2% in last year)