Posted by Deliverator on October 7th, 2006
Yesterday, I got my first chance to play around with FiOS, the new fiber-to-the-premises service from Verizon. Verizon is currently the only major provider offering such a service in the US. This is really the first major attempt in the US to make a break with the aging infrastructure of telephone lines and coaxial cable. Verizon is currently pushing internet access and phone service over the new fiber infrastructure, as well as TV service in the few markets where they have been able to negotiate franchise agreements. It will probably be an uphill battle trying to win over contracts from municiple governments with entrenched cable monopolies.
Phone service may be an iffy proposition as well, as fiber cannot carry power like copper wiring can, meaning your phone service will go down in the event of a power failure. Normal copper based phone service with its independent power system often stays up even when the main power grid fails. Verizon does include a small UPS with the installation, but it is only rated for 4-8 hours of service and people will probably forget to replace the batteries every 2-3 years anyways. This could be a real turn off to some people who take disaster preparedness seriously (as I hope we all do after Katrina).
Where FiOS really shines is as a platform for broadband internet. Verizon offers a number of speeds, with the slowest speed of 5 mbit down 2 mbit up coming in at around $35. Even this low end offering is less expensive and faster than any comparable DSL offering as well as being competitive with the best speeds that Comcast currently offers. For a mere $10 more a month, you can get your speed boosted to 15 mbit down/2 mbit up, a speed that is unrivaled by any other broadband technology on the market today. Speed bumps beyond that are possible, but get significantly more expensive. The next tier of speed, 30 mbit down/5 mbit up will cost a residential user $180/month. There is also a 50 down/5 up plan, which is not widely advertised, for which I have no pricing data. Static IPs are not offered on residential accounts, but the dynamic ips that are assigned on residential accounts appear to have very long term leases. A dynamic DNS service should make some home hosting a possibility. It appears that port 80 and 25 incoming are blocked, so FiOS isn’t ideal for home server, but thats life. For pretty much double the cost, you can get your FiOS under a business contract with a block of 5 static IPs and no port blocking.
Verizon is making a huge investment in infrastructure with FiOS. It is going to cost them dearly in the near tune, with at least $20 BILLION dollars already planned. In the long term, I think it will give them a huge competitive advantage. I am unaware of any future DSL or cable standards that can touch the speeds which FiOS is capable of offering today. Multimode fiber also gives Verizon the ability to roll out faster speeds in the future by multiplexing more wavelengths of light down the fiber. This of course would require swapping gear out at both the head and client premises, a not insignificant expense, but really the labor involved in the initial rolling out of fiber to neighborhoods is going to be the big overall expense. I think FiOS looks to be a big winner in the broadband market as it stands now and has greater room for expansion in the future. As the lines between conventional push media (TV), communications and internet service continue to blur, the future increasingly becomes about bits/second. Fiber, more than any other technology has the potential to drastically change the way we think about (and use) broadband. Today’s broadband services will seem as outmoded and useless as analogue dial-up does to the present generation of users, who are more likely to get their media from YouTube than the BoobTube.