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FiOS: Slower Sub Growth, Faster Upload Speeds

Alan Breznick

While it continues to make market inroads against cable and satellite TV providers, FiOS's growth rate is definitely slowing down as the Verizon fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) platform runs out of room to run.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) reported Tuesday morning that FiOS added fewer TV and Internet subscribers in the second quarter ending June 30 than it did a year ago, continuing a recent pattern as it reaches the limit of its FTTP network buildout. FiOS also added substantially fewer digital voice customers in the spring.

Specifically, Verizon reported that FiOS picked up 100,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, down from 140,000 a year ago. Still, the telco now has 5.4 million pay-TV subscribers, more than all US cable operators except Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC).

Similarly, on the broadband side, Verizon said FiOS netted 139,000 new broadband subscribers, down from 161,000 a year earlier. Nevertheless, due to these gains, Verizon now has 6.3 million FiOS Internet subscribers and 9.1 million overall broadband subscribers, more than nearly all US MSOs again.

With the all-fiber FiOS network now passing 19.3 million homes and small businesses, Verizon executives maintain that they still have some room to grow. But, with FiOS Video's penetration rate now at 35.3% of homes marketed and FiOS Internet's penetration rate at 40.1% of homes marketed, it's getting harder to see where that growth will come from.

Seeking to seize the competitive broadband edge from cable operators, Verizon announced Monday that it's upgrading FiOS's upstream capacity to deliver much faster upload speeds on all of its Internet tiers. Under this program, FiOS will offer symmetrical upload and download speeds on every broadband tier, including up to 500 Mbit/s on its fastest Quantum tier, by the end of the year. That makes Verizon the first US broadband provider to take that step. (See Verizon FiOS Boosts Upload Speeds .)

Verizon executives said they're making this move because of internal projections that upload activity on the FiOS network will double by late 2016. They also cited a recent IDC study that more than 20% of US broadband households are now "power users," uploading nearly as much content as they download. IBC projects that the number of power users will rise by 60% by 2017.

The across-the-board FiOS upstream increases will undoubtedly put more pressure on cable operators to do the same. Although US MSOs like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox Communications Inc. have matched or come close to matching FiOS's speed increases on the downstream side through the use of DOCSIS 3.0 technology and fiber-fed lines, they are more constrained on the upstream side until the next-generation DOCSIS 3.1 standard gets deployed.

Want to know more about DOCSIS 3.1 and other cable next-gen technologies? Check out this coverage of our Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event last March.

On the video side, Verizon is seeking to re-stoke FiOS's growth momentum by pumping up FiOS Quantum TV, a whole-home HD-DVR service that provides six tuners and 1 terabyte of DVR storage. In its latest promotion, FiOS is now offering free Quantum TV-enhanced service for 24 months to new triple-play customers who sign up by September 20.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 9:50:26 PM
Re: Cut the price
Yes and with the increasing use of legal streaming services for movies and music and even live broadcasts, I have to wonder if illegal torrenting would go on a long term decline.

User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 9:45:02 PM
Re: Cut the price
Very good point!

You'd have to show that there are key "performers" who can bring in more hits, on average, than what randomly waiting around for the next "Baby Pours Mush on Head" or Rebecca Black fluke would.

Then there's the matter of firsthand news.   Does it attract responses?   And at what cost compared to the endless series of Feeds that simply publish the same story as each other?

I'm reaching here, as you can see ...  
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/22/2014 | 8:33:13 PM
Re: Cut the price
What's the incentive for companies to pay people to contribute to social media when people are wiling to do it for free?
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 5:51:13 PM
Re: Cut the price
I would like to know just what that 20% is uploading - that seems like a lot of data going back and forth. 

Perhaps its torrents - but I would be surprised to know that one-fifth of subscribers are doing that. Of course, I could be underestimating how many people are using peer to peer network that hog so much bandwidth. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 3:57:33 PM
Re: Cut the price
So, do you see Cable dropping their price?

I see Cable doing the same thing as Verizon.  Only low speed DSL is close to being a low cost product.

Verizon and the MSOs are working on the put in more and slowly raise prices model.

The competition doesn't exist.  The bad news is that it if did exist they would just lower their prices and drive the new player out.  Note Google is studiously avoiding FiOS ciites.


User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 1:55:50 PM
Re: Cut the price
Lots of different kinds of jobs.  For example, Social Media Jouralists.  People paid to roam around with a tablet and video, record and write down their observations in posts.   The whole vast hierarchy of publishing that was destroyed by the Internet could make a comeback.  

The missing component has always been...Monetization.   Facebook is one example of how the Internet creation content has been privatized (the Post replaces the Web page).    This provides the kind of base that can start to reward people who contribute with incomes in return for the types of infotainment that keep people glued to their tablets.

Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/22/2014 | 1:50:58 PM
Re: Cut the price
Okay, so when I saw "more of these fees going to content creators," I have to admit, my knee jerk reaction was that content is too costly as it is. 

But you are not talking about the traditional content creators, right? What kind of compensation do you expect or want to see for the "great number of laborers who contribute to social media?"
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 1:49:01 PM
Re: Cut the price
Well it comes down to the math.

Obviously just cutting the price for existing customers loses them money, but if it gains that many more customers, and they expect to increase it slightly in the future, and perhaps get into the content creation business then overall it might be worth their while.

Like with broadcasting, the addition of each new customer -- assuming they don't live out in the sticks -- will be very minimal.   I mean, for the cost of running a wire you get $55 a month?  Geeze!  I need a business like that!
User Rank: Light Beer
7/22/2014 | 1:39:19 PM
Re: Cut the price
I would love to see VZ cut the price and willing to clamor/slam my fist on the table for that. As consumers though, we have no leverage. The real question is why would they? What incentive do they have? They've probably measured price elasticity vs subscriber growth and they likely know that dropping the price, unless it's significant, won't maximize profits, maybe not even revenue. It will only likely add more cost (bandwdith, interconnect, support, capital intensity, etc...). A great recommendation and wish; not likely to happen anytime soon.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2014 | 1:37:25 PM
Re: Cut the price
Well, with my Android phone and Google+, I now see that every photo and video I make are auto-uploaded to the Cloud, so I should be thankful for faster uploads and it "clears the road" for consuming download.

I'm also not against putting more money into the hands of The Internet in general because I think we are getting very good content for the price, but I'd like to see more of these fees going to content creators rather than just operations.   Netflix is leading the way with original programming, but at some point, we have to move capital and income to the great number of laborers who contribute to social media which in turn draws customers into using that same media.

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