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Verizon Hones Home Networking

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is hoping its new Home Media DVR will, among other things, shorten the distance between the bedroom or office PC and the entertainment center in the living room. (See Verizon Intros DVR.)

The carrier says its DVR's Media Manager software will let customers of its FiOS service manage and enjoy their music and photo files from the comfort of their couches. If the PC in the home is networked, the new set-top box will automatically detects photos and music files and will grab them for viewing or listening on the TV or home stereo.

Media Manager Interface

A later version of the software will allow for videos stored on the PC to be auto-detected and watchable on the set-top.

And, of course, the new DVR allows for multi-room DVR capability, so consumers can record shows on one set-top and watch them on up to two other TVs elsewhere in the home. The Home Media DVR, built by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), won't be able to send high definition (HD) streams around the house until a later version, Verizon says.

“A lot of this is based on the fact that they have this MoCA home networking architecture in place that allows them to start to do some of these things,” says Heavy Reading analyst Rick Thompson. Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) is a home networking standard by which all devices on the network can communicate over existing coaxial cable. (See Entropic, Verizon Serve Up MOCA.)

“We’re now able to offer some new services without having to send out new equipment or reconfigure the whole network, because we’ve already got it there and we can push the services down via software,” says Verizon's Shawn Strickland, the VP of FiOS product management.

Verizon is betting that new, high-bandwidth, integrated services like those announced Monday will put FiOS a few steps ahead of services from its cable and satellite rivals.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is unimpressed. Spokesman Chris Ellis explains his company could launch a multi-room DVR service similar to Verizon’s, but just hasn’t yet. “It’s not a capability question," Ellis tells Light Reading. “It’s just something we choose not to do at this time.” (See Fios Fries Comcast.)

Meanwhile yet another MSO, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has started rolling out a new photo and video sharing application to some of its digital cable and Internet subscribers. The service, called "PhotoShowTV," is similar to Verizon's Media Manager application, but without the requirement for specialty hardware. It allows photos and video clips to be stored on a server for viewing either on the home PC or the TV set-top.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is also making clear moves toward integrated and home networked services. (See AT&T Hits Homezone.) The carrier's HomeZone service -- the forerunner to the more advanced, fiber-based U-verse service -- also features a certain amount of video, image, and music sharing via a home network. Homezone users can also communicate via broadband connection with their 2Wire Inc. set-tops to schedule and manage DVR recordings while they are away from home.

Verizon says its new services work in the absence of the new “broadband home router (BHR)” it’s been talking about. (See Verizon Moves Toward Home Gateway.) The BHR will act as a true home gateway product, the central traffic cop of the FiOS home network. The BHR is manufactured by Actiontec Electronics Inc. and has just begun shipping to new customers, Strickland says. (See Verizon: Lights, Camera, Actiontec! and Home Networking Drives Jungo Win.)

For now the Motorola set-top box acts as the network hub, pulling content from the PC via a connection with the D-Link Systems Inc. router sitting near the PCs of most customers today.

Verizon's Home Media DVR service (Motorola set-top box with software) costs $19.95 per month for new customers. Customers already renting a DVR from Verizon at $12.95 will pay an additional $7 for the new service. Customers will pay $3.95 per month each set-top box to which they wish to stream video, Verizon says.

Verizon says FiOS video service is now available in parts of seven states: California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Texas. (See Verizon FiOS Expands in Texas.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:38 AM
re: Verizon Hones Home Networking
I saw a recent Parks Associates Press Release that said something like 50 percent of consumers will be upgrading to a HD sets over the next 12 months. How can anybody consider launching a non-HD service in this day and age? Especially considering that FiOS has got to be an early adopter type of technology at this point, you would think that an even higher percentage of these customers would be patrons of the HD technology. But hey what does VZ know about video right?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:34 AM
re: Verizon Hones Home Networking
Can anyone who subscribes to this service let us know what the service plus equipment cost is? After reviewing the Motorola Whole Home Media Solutions site, it appears that you need a DCT6400 whole home DVR somewhere in the home and then a DCT2500 set top box on each TV that will access the DVR. Does Verizon install all this equipment for free or is there an equipment charge per month (much like my cable company charges $10 per month for a HDTV set top box)? That's a lot of CPE equipment. Wasn't one of the big negatives of IPTV vs RF video the cost of all the IPTV set top boxes?

Verizon seems to be setting themselves up to being caught in a market thats hard to realize revenue in the long term. They either have to give you the equipment without a monthly charge (which means the customer has to be sticky for a long time to make back the equipment cost on just the service fee) or they charge monthly for the equipment and the customer compares that cost to the cost of just buying equipment and using anyones TV service. You don't need Fios to do this. It is all based on UPnP, in home wiring and PVR technology that Intel and Microsoft are ramping up very quickly. Take a look at the UPnP forum or the Digital Living Network Aliance or the Digital Home Alliance for a lot of cunsumer equipment that does the same thing. I'm picking up two more D-Link set tops at Micro center this week to expand my home system(you can get then at Best Buy too). I use my Windows Media Center PC as the central DVR and HP and D-link set tops to implement the same thing. I even get High Definition today using a Xbox 360 for the high def set top box. All I pay for is standard cable TV from my cable provider. It's only a matter of time(and not much) before this is looked at like connecting a Tivo box to your TV. There are a lot of powerfull market forces driving to make this a common thing for consumers. After all Intel and Microsoft have to come up with some other market to expand into once we all have all the PCs in our homes that we need. It looks like this is where their heading. Verizon has a short term head start if they can install it for the consumer at a price they are willing to pay, but longer term the advantage disappears.
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