It was the light seen up and down the East Coast when Verizon announced five years ago this week that it was deploying its revolutionary all-fiber-optic FiOS network here and in five other Eastern states, transforming how people access the Internet and TV entertainment.
(NOTE: To hear what some early adapters of FiOS have to say about their service five years later click here.)
FiOS has had a huge impact on the residents of those six Eastern states - New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware - as well as other states where FiOS was deployed later in 2004. Even more important, it has transformed an entire industry.
"FiOS has made an enormous impact on the consumer and small-business broadband markets, accelerating the change in both the basic delivery of these services while also laying the technological foundation for emerging bandwidth-intensive applications," said Matt Davis, director of consumer and small-business telecom services research for the global market intelligence firm IDC.
"Verizon has consistently raised the bar on broadband speeds and network reliability, forcing both competitors and peers to explore new technologies and increase their own capabilities in an attempt to keep pace with the disruption triggered by FiOS," Davis added.
In the five years since the FiOS network was first deployed, Verizon has introduced the only national fiber-to-the-home TV service and has been an industry leader in high-definition TV; pioneered blistering broadband speeds of 50 Mbps (megabits per second) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream; and blurred the lines between cable TV and Internet with, among other tools, an interactive media guide that merges content from broadcast TV, the Internet and a customer's private photo, video and music files.
The FiOS platform, capable of integrating Internet and TV functions, has fostered the development of dynamic new on-screen TV widgets that enrich the entertainment experience by linking Web resources to what appears on-screen. Verizon's Facebook and Twitter widgets, for example, turn static TV into social TV by letting subscribers connect with others while watching their favorite shows. FiOS TV's RedZone and ESPN Fantasy Sports widgets convert a living room into a virtual sports bar, with instant access to statistics, scores, news and real-time critical plays.
"FiOS is setting the pace for the industry," said Mark Wegleitner, senior vice president-technology for Verizon. "Verizon has created a network with a current capability of 100 megabit-plus Internet service, with FiOS TV capable of expanding to higher-definition TV, including 3D HDTV programming."
(NOTE: To view a brief video of a FiOS installation click here.)
And there's still more on the way.
Verizon will further enrich FiOS over the coming months so that it becomes a control hub for much more than home information and entertainment. Verizon will leverage the dynamic home network built for every FiOS customer, adding such household systems as security, heating and air conditioning and various consumer electronics.
"With FiOS, Verizon designed an end-to-end network for maximum capacity and maximum flexibility," said Wegleitner. "Verizon invested in a network that would allow a consumer's home network to accommodate multiple devices performing multiple tasks. The wisdom of this investment is evident today as Verizon outpaces the competition with superior products and innovation it can't match."
Verizon's FiOS Internet base has grown from a few thousand in those first communities to receive the service to more than 3.1 million customers nationwide, while FiOS TV is now found in the homes and businesses of more than 2.5 million customers. By the end of this year, Verizon's FiOS network will pass approximately 15 million homes and businesses, with an eventual goal of 18 million.
At the end of the second quarter 2009, combined market share in those areas where FiOS is offered approached 30 percent for Internet and 25 percent for TV. By 2010, Verizon projects that FiOS Internet penetration in its combined markets will be between 35 percent and 40 percent, while FiOS TV penetration will approach 30 percent, exceeding earlier expectations.
"Only Verizon is providing consumers and businesses a 100 percent fiber network straight to their door, and customers are reaping the benefits," Wegleitner added. "We've just begun to plumb the depths of the FiOS technology and will continue to challenge cable to catch us if it can."
In addition to its own FiOS innovations, Verizon will continue to draw on its partnerships with other companies for such things as the popular FiOS widgets - FiOS-TV users' one-touch access to customized entertainment and information. Introduced three years ago, FiOS widgets have expanded from news, horoscopes and weather to social media like Facebook and Twitter; sports features like ESPN Fantasy Football and NFL Redzone; and entertainment features like KODAK Gallery, which gives users instant access on their TVs to their KODAK Gallery photos and slideshows.
Among other highlights of Verizon's all-fiber FiOS network since its launch are:
- Internet speeds - both upstream and downstream - that have accelerated over the years, redefining speed as "two-way fast." Verizon was first to offer 50/20 Mbps speeds in every FiOS market.
- Introduction of FiOS TV in September 2005; beating cable to a 100 HD-channel offering and adding to that lead today with at least 115 HD channels in each market.
- First to be certified by the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council for providing fiber all the way to customers' homes and businesses.
- Partnerships with Disney, ESPN, NFL Network and Starz, among others, to bring sports, movies and children's entertainment to customers via their FiOS Internet connection.
- Introduction of the FiOS TV interactive media guide, providing customers with a powerful new tool for pulling together content from broadcast TV, the Internet and the customer's own private music, video and photo files on one system.
- Introduction of a multi-room DVR that allows customers to use one DVR to record standard and HD programming that can be watched on up to six other TVs in a home, including up to three separate recorded programs simultaneously on different TVs.
- Passed 13.8 million homes at the end of June 2009.
- Continuing to drive down the cost of deploying and installing network services, with 2010 goals approaching half what it cost to install the services in 2004.
- Introduction of remote DVR management that allows customers to review, change or add recording requests; delete recorded programs; browse and search TV and video-on-demand listings; set parental controls and more, via any broadband connection or any broadband-enabled cell phone.
- Introduction of FiOS TV Media Manager service that allows FiOS DVR customers to access personal photos, videos and music from their home computers and play them on their TVs, plus search for and enjoy online videos from blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh on their TVs.
FiOS Five Years Later- Tech Tidbits
- Since FiOS was launched, CATV and other competitors have been forced to try to keep pace in terms of data rates, video quality and features. Cable companies wrestle with having to force all TV, data and voice services onto one set of frequencies, while FiOS has unlimited capacity based on the fiber-optic technology.
- As deployed, the Verizon all-fiber-optic network could provide customers up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) bandwidth, both upstream and downstream.
- FiOS could one day deliver an entire optic wavelength for each customer, offering bandwidth beyond anything imaginable today.
- FiOS could easily be engineered to support super-high-definition TV and even bandwidth-hungry 3D TV, while copper-based systems could not handle data streams that large.
- Verizon's network is future-proof; to increase capacity, only electronics at both ends of the fiber need to be changed.
FiOS Network Basics
- Verizon's fiber-to-the-home network is "passive." Three wavelengths link Verizon's facilities to customers, with no electronics between the sending and receiving equipment, lowering construction and maintenance costs and assuring quality and reliability.
- Of the three wavelengths, or colors of light, that Verizon uses, one carries linear video downstream; one carries On-Demand video, data and voice service downstream; and one handles all upstream traffic. To increase capacity, additional wavelengths could be added, or the speed of the downstream and upstream could be increased.
- Verizon now uses Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology, which increases capacity to four times the downstream and eight times the upstream capacity of the earlier BPON technology.
- FiOS TV went all-digital nearly two years ago, ahead of other providers. FiOS TV transmits HD video at the quality provided by the content owner; no further compression is required to push signals through the network, resulting in the best picture quality in the industry.
- Equipment on customer premises continues to change from outdoor optical network terminals to indoor units to space-saving multi-unit hubs to desktop-sized fiber connections, lowering space requirements inside homes and apartments and cutting down installation time. ONTs convert light energy into the electronic signals used for Internet, TV and voice applications.
- Smaller ONTs, bend-insensitive fiber and new installation techniques make FiOS services more popular with multi-unit building owners due to simplicity of connections
Home network advantage
- Every FiOS home installation includes a customized in-home network that links all devices in the home for cross-platform information exchange.
- The network architecture makes possible on-screen TV widgets as well as applications for home security and energy management unparalleled in the industry, along with access to content stored anywhere in the home.
- Verizon's home network is a managed service; the equipment has its own direct connection to the company's operations systems and can be adjusted or enhanced remotely.
- Because the networks are managed inside the home, customers also can avoid repair calls simply by clicking on links in Verizon's In-Home Agent, which sets up or repairs network-based services
- The home network uses already in-home coaxial cable and multimedia over coax, or MoCA protocols, to distribute video and data services in the home, simplifying and cutting the cost of installation.
Internet Highlights 2004-2009
2009: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer becomes the first major daily newspaper to move entirely online. Google announces development of a free computer operating system designed for a user experience that primarily takes place on the Web. (Source: AP)
2009: Twitter emerges as the fastest-growing site on the Internet, with 6 million unique monthly visitors and 55 million monthly visits - growing 1,400 percent every month. (Source: LastWatchdog)
2008: World Internet population surpasses 1.5 billion. China's Internet population reaches 250 million, surpassing the U.S. as the world's largest. Netscape's developers pull the plug on the pioneer browser, though an offshoot, Firefox, remains strong. Major airlines intensify deployment of Internet service on flights. (Source: AP)
2007: Search engine giant Google surpasses Microsoft as "the most valuable global brand," and also is the most-visited Web site. (Source: AP)
2006: World Internet population surpasses 1 billion. (Source: AP)
2005: Launch of YouTube video-sharing site.
2004: Mark Zuckerberg starts Facebook as a sophomore at Harvard University.
Verizon launches FiOS Ultra-High Speed Internet.