Light Reading

Verizon Previews FiOS Future

Raymond McConville
News Analysis
Raymond McConville
10/29/2007
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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) isn't the only carrier showing off new TV tricks.

AT&T got to spotlight some possible U-verse applications at last week's TelcoTV conference. (See AT&T Shows Off IPTV Tricks.) On Friday, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) did some bragging of its own, inviting media to its sprawling campus here to demonstrate some interactive services that could be in the future for FiOS TV.

CTO Mark Wegleitner and his technology team showed off applications from video games to advanced advertising to home security and, of course, fixed/mobile convergence. All of the services are still in development and may or may not one day become reality. Here's the rundown.

IM Everywhere
With this new service, Verizon is looking to change instant messaging from being a service that is tied to the device to a service that is tied to the user. Once Verizon makes some necessary upgrades to its presence servers, users of any of its services could notify the network of what device they're using, whether it be the wireless device or PC.

With IM Everywhere, a picture message sent to a user's cellphone could be redirected by the cell tower to the user's PC if that is what he is actively using. The contents of the message would then pop up on the screen as if it were an instant message. Verizon is looking to make this both a consumer- and enterprise-based service.

Gaming Anywhere
The gaming geek demographic is now a multibillion-dollar industry. In this demo, Verizon's director of mass market services, William Garrett, explained how by 2010, 20 percent of this consumer gaming spending will be through interactive TV services.

With Gaming Anywhere on FiOS, all of the games are executed in Verizon's network, meaning any network upgrades wouldn't have to touch customer premises equipment. In this service, users could play a variety of titles from either their TV set-top box using any USB capable game controller, their PC, or their mobile phone.

In the demo, Verizon showed off the multi-player aspect of the service with a round of golf between two employees, one playing from a set-top box and the other from a mobile phone. Part of the plan is to let users switch from playing on one device to another.

Advanced Advertising
What would be the point of new interactive services without making more advertising revenue off of it? Here, Verizon showed how ads could be inserted, even in on-demand programs that skip commercial breaks.

The idea harkens back to last decade's dreams of interactive TV, where content gets embedded inside programming. Verizon's demo showed the Today show with a chef as a guest. Pressing a button on the remote control called up recipes, books available for purchase on Amazon.com, and relevant ad content.

Verizon also plans to add interactive information on product placements within television shows. Any purchases made through FiOS TV could be paid for by the usual credit-card method -- or, Verizon could add them to the phone bill.

HomeWave Media Share and Security
FiOS is planning a customer premises management system, where the home router keeps track of all devices including WiFi-enabled cameras. When taking a picture with such a camera, the router immediately recognizes it and sends it to any device in the home the user wants: the TV, mobile phone, PC, etc.

The devices are all managed in accordance with the TR-069 standard. The idea can be extended to devices such as Webcams, thermometers, and lighting fixtures that can be controlled from anywhere using a mobile phone.

Integrated Services on IMS
The common theme of all of these future services is presence. They rely on Verizon's network to be continually tracking the presence of every device. Eventually, Verizon hopes to be able to detect which devices can reach a user and to receive alerts when those devices become available to the network.

At least in the lab setting, Verizon showed it's able to transfer phone calls, videos, and other applications from one device to the other with no interruption. Verizon also hopes to make cellphone calls possible over a WiFi network just as T-Mobile US Inc. does with its Hot Spot @Home service.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:58 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
Is anyone else having trouble getting wowed by IPTV/telco-TV features?

Nothing against Ray's report -- he did a fine job writing this up (and a fine job sitting through lots of demos, which can be agonizing.) But other than the generic promise of watching any program any time, I'm finding little in the way of "killer" apps for IPTV.

Some are interesting, and I can see them being useful, but it's not something I'm instantly craving. AT&T's feature to locate your family via their cell phones comes to mind.

Others are just who-cares features -- and it's not just me. I've heard one exec after another ask out loud why anyone cares about caller ID on the TV screen.

Am I missing something here? Anybody want to step up for the IPTV features they find compelling?
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:57 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
Anybody want to step up for the IPTV features they find compelling?

From what I read the cable cos spent a lot of time with razzle, dazzle type stuff when bidding for franchises during the 70s and 80s. They would demo some gimicky thing to convince a local city council that they were the better provider with cooler technology. Than the city would award them the franchise over the fellow bidders. Of course, real world budgets problems always followed as everybody underbid the project. The first thing to go was the gimmicky stuff.

Quaokka sports demo'd some neat NASCAR stuff and also had olympic rights w/NBC. Event with that they ended up in bankruptcy.

TV is a tough business. Seems better to build an internet business.
Raymond McConville
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Raymond McConville,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:56 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
I think the key will be mobility. The features that interested me the most personally were the ones that involved the merging of applications on both wireline and mobile platforms. For example, the demo of the two people playing golf against each other with one person on the cell phone and the other on the set top box. That was pretty cool. But whether pretty cool equates to pretty profitable, I don't know.
Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:55 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
7 sez:
> The basic problem is that massive organizations like AT&T and Verizon can only come up with mass market features and generally late to market.

True. Massiveness definitely runs against AT&T and Verizon here. But there's a point in their favor: 80%, maybe even 95%, of America still doesn't give a damn about any of this stuff. By the time they do, AT&T and Verizon may have caught up to coolness. Heck, even Qwest might be there.

That's not the greatest argument, but I'm on my first cup of coffee here.

> The large companies would offer bulk services that huge percentages would want, but are relatively uncool and of modest value (see Caller ID). The powerful, cool features are produced by the 3rd parties. They come and go. They will have limited markets.

I like your point. There's a customer-service danger, though, if the 3rd-party apps start messing each other up, like they can on the PC (cf. the Real Media vs. Windows Media cage match that's going on inside many PCs today). IPTV is a different breed from the PC, but I have to wonder if third-party applications will open the door to new and infuriating bugs.

Still, it seems like this is the way to go. Once all the carriers are up to speed on IPTV, 3rd-party help will be a way to differentiate -- just like gaming consoles can use individual game titles to differentiate.
paolo.franzoi
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paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:55 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future

Ray/Craig,

I have to partially agree with my arch-nemesis rj. I have a different view, but he may agree with mine at the end.

The basic problem is that massive organizations like AT&T and Verizon can only come up with mass market features and generally late to market. The "coolness" has already disappeared. Their decision cycles to even fund such a notion is longer than the coolness factor exists.

rj's answer is just give me pipes. I think there are more things that a carrier can offer in an open manner (control features - QoS features - billing features - etc.). This goes back to a very old idea of basic and advanced services offered in an open environment. These services can then be billed for. Services will be created an offered by 3rd parties at a much faster rate. This was the thought behind AIN, but who knows maybe it will work now.

The large companies would offer bulk services that huge percentages would want, but are relatively uncool and of modest value (see Caller ID). The powerful, cool features are produced by the 3rd parties. They come and go. They will have limited markets.

seven
soldack
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soldack,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:55 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
I have the FiOS triple play. I have their Multimedia DVR in my living room. It lets me stream non-HD recordings to other regular set top boxes in the house and works quite well.

On the other hand, the media manager software is quite broken. It is supposed to let you view pictures and listen to music from a PC on the lan but it usually crashes or doesn't start at all. They need to get this working and add support for streaming video from a PC.

Also, it would be interesting to add some more PC features besides IM. Things like some web surfing or going to some known Video sites like YouTube.

I think the gaming idea is a good one. It would be nice to not have to buy another console or another PC to play games in the living room. I think any family with kids will like this.

While it isn't new in the TV realm, the VOD support from FiOS is pretty good. This is where the satellite folks really need a solution. VOD and DVR are quite convenient.

My biggest problem with Verizon was getting the triple play installed and dealing with their support system. Their customer support folks are quite nice but have ZERO ability to do anything to solve your problems. They just try to route you. Also, all too often, the right hand of one service has no idea what the left hand of the other service is doing. It a company is going to brag about one bill, they should respond as one company.
Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 2:59:55 PM
re: Verizon Previews FiOS Future
soldacker: Thanks for the input. Great to hear from someone who's living with the services. Seeing them in the demo room (like I have) pales in comparison to dealing with the service day after day after day.

> ...the media manager software is quite broken. It is supposed to let you view pictures and listen to music from a PC on the lan but it usually crashes or doesn't start at all.

OK... I'd file that under "bad."
I wonder, will the PC/Mac be the weak link in the home-networking chain? I'm thinking back to the days when getting peripherals to work with your PC was a fight to the death (printers, in particular, always had it in for me.) Even today, with USB and plug-and-play, things go bad: my PC stopped recognizing my USB CD burner recently, for instance.

> I think the gaming idea is a good one. It would be nice to not have to buy another console or another PC to play games in the living room. I think any family with kids will like this.

Agreed. A service that solves box clutter will be popular. Then again, I like having some things under my complete control -- an external DVR being one example. But I'm in the minority there.

> While it isn't new in the TV realm, the VOD support from FiOS is pretty good. This is where the satellite folks really need a solution. VOD and DVR are quite convenient.

Very good point.

> My biggest problem with Verizon was getting the triple play installed and dealing with their support system.

Yeah, but aren't you kind of relieved to see they're still the same old phone company you know and love? :)
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