|Verizon Answers FiOS Engineering Questions: Parts I and II
These are takeaways from yesterday's Baller-Herbst Newsletter. Part I appeared on March 23, followed by Part II, yesterday, April 12, 2007. Both parts initially appeared on Verizon's own blog site and were subsequently aired and discussed at dslreports.com .
Part I: John Broadband/FiOS Conversation with... Brian Whitton
By John 'CZ' Czwartacki in PolicyBlog on Friday, March 23, 2007
Brian Whitton, Executive Director of Access Network Design and Integration for Verizon, answered questions as promised posed by readers of -- or about -- this Q&A session. I was threatening to run over the time I grabbed off his schedule (2hrs) so Brian only got to the first half of the Qs. He’s promised to answer the reminder next week and I’ll post them then.
In the meantime, if you want to know peak speeds FiOS broadband will reach with our new ONTs (400Mbs!!!) or wonder if TiVO works with FiOS TV (it does) or what the simultaneous viewing limit of FiOS TV Video On Demand is (none…how many TVs you got?), you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks to Dave Zatz and the others who emailed/posted questions for Brian. [This conversation was held this morning via Sametime, our IM tool.]
[See here for a related announcement tinyurl.com .]
Broadband and FiOS Conversation with.. Brian Whitton:
John S. Czwarta... Let’s get started, the first question for you is: “how does or will Verizon distinguish between offering on-demand content to the TV over FiOS versus IPTV? how does Verizon classify IPTV from a technical level and what role will it play if any across their network?”
Brian H. Whitton... We at Verizon currently carry VOD content as IPTV across our FTTP network. FiOS broadcast TV content, in contrast, is carried over a separate wavelength on the FTTP network. Our FTTP network has been carefully designed from day one to accommodate an all IPTV delivery method and we are working within the various standards bodies, such as ATIS' IPTV Interoperability Forum to drive the development of open IPTV standards. Verizon is committed to supporting full IPTV as the optimum means of offering all video content to our customers and is prepared to implement complete IPTV as the standards for open IPTV are complete and equipment built to these standards becomes available.
John S. Czwarta... “what is the speed range that FiOS needs to be able to support in Verizon's eyes in order to deliver the kind of content experience they dream of? is the 20MB I have now enough or do they see it having to me more than that?”
Brian H. Whitton... It is very difficult to say for certain what consumers will demand in terms of higher bandwidth speeds, other then to point out that they will demand more tomorrow then what they get today, based on history of data communications over the past 2 decades. Our FTTP design has always been based on a very key tenant from the perspective of bandwidth growth: "Be able to offer materially more bandwidth to consumers over FTTP without having to modify or rehab the optical transport network that we have invested in". For instance, we launched FTTP in June, 2004 based on BPON. BPON supports 622 Mbps downstream and 155 Mbps upstream, serving up to 32 homes. Shortly, we will launch GPON, which will deliver a 2.4 Gbps downstream and 1.2 Gbps upstream to again 32 residences or businesses. This next generation of FTTP, GPON, is achieved without any changes to the outside plant. Our GPON ONTs, the devices placed at a consumers home, have been designed to support peak data rates of 400 Mbps, and we believe this amount of bandwidth will easily accommodate consumer's needs for a long time! While we do not offer 400 MBps today, the point is VZ can adjust the FiOS data rates based on customer and market needs.
John S. Czwarta... I (CZ) have to ask my own Q here, is there anything being deployed elsewhere on the globe that is better/faster?
Brian H. Whitton... We do not believe so. While a few services providers are building PON based networks in areas such as Asia, these networks have been designed principally for data services. Our network design has been tailored to offer all the telecommunications services, including voice, high speed internet service, broadcast and interactive video, all over the same network. We do not know of any other network on the globe that accomplishes what we have done and at the same scale.
John S. Czwarta... Back to real blogger questions: “will the FiOS service consider licensing the TiVo software for it's DVR's? while I can't get FiOS TV yet in my area, the idea that I will lose TiVo2Go if I drop TiVo and move to Verizon's DVR is not a thought I like and one that will keep me from using the Verizon DVR.”
Brian H. Whitton... We continually examine the value proposition our services bring to our customers and look for ways to further enhance our product. Our DVR offering received great reviews from our customers, and in 2006 we greatly enhanced our DVR product with the launch of multi-room DVR, allowing customers to record content to one device, and play back to other TV's in the home equipped with a standard set top box. Regarding TiVO (use with FiOS), a customer who wishes to use the TiVO service can indeed continue to do so and still subscribe to and use FiOS TV
John S. Czwarta... “what percentage of the market does Verizon need to capture for Internet service and over what period of time in order for Verizon to feel it has been successful with this product? I am not asking from a P&L perspective although I am sure that's probably how Verizon will judge success.”
Brian H. Whitton... Verizon announced in January, 2007 our results for FiOS customers added to the network. At that time, we disclosed we added 207,000 FiOS TV and 687,000 FiOS data customers, surpassing our internal goals. Frankly, we believe we offer the very best broadband data and video products, based on quality and speed, and feel our results demonstrate the level of market acceptance we expect to continue throughout 2007 and beyond.
John S. Czwarta... “what new content services will Verizon make available for FiOS users and by when? what are the application they are focusing on first? games? video conferencing? movies?”
Brian H. Whitton... In 2006 we announced the availability of our 'widget' applications. The first of these, weather widgets and travel widgets, allows FiOS TV customers to gain access to real time weather and travel information based on the information, such as zip code, entered by the customers. In effect, these 1st two applications are examples of unifying information widely available on the Internet, but displayed on the TV. We currently support video on demand, with over 5500 titles available to choose from. We continue to develop other interactive applications that you will hear much more about throughout 2007.
John S. Czwarta... “WHY WON'T MY VERIZON FIOS ACCOUNT ALLOW ME TO SEND MORE THAN 100 E-MAILS IN A DAY!!! I am not a spammer, just a FiOS customer that like many, work from home and do a lot of e-mail and spend a lot of time online. This is a BAD customer experience when my mail won't go through and I call Verizon only to be told I am limited to sending 100 e-mail! This need to be removed! Here is a blazing fast connection, but don't use it to send too much e-mail is a complete mixed message.”
Brian H. Whitton... I have not heard of this issue before. I will look into concern and get back to you. CZ UPDATE: The actual limit is no more than 500 individual emails, and no more than 100 identical emails, PER HOUR. This is obviously to thwart spamers, not you. It’s in the terms of service here. Let us know how we can help clear this up further.
John S. Czwarta... “One of the things that cable gets knocked for is only supporting a limited capacity of shows that can be offered through their VOD service at any one time. What is the maximum number of VOD videos that Verizon will have the capacity to offer on demand and on average how many VOD shows do they actually plan on offering through the service.”
Brian H. Whitton... We have no practical limit on the number of simultaneous video on demand titles that can be viewed by a customer. Unlike cable TV networks, Verizon's all fiber to the home network provides more then enough bandwidth to our customers so they can use FiOS TV services and applications in the manner they desire. In the case of VOD, therefore, the practical limitation is the number of TVs a customer has. For instance, a customer with 6 TVs, each equipped with a set top box, will be able to view VOD simultaneously when served by FiOS.
John S. Czwarta... “Motorola technology and set-tops power the Verizon Home Media DVR service, so I’m familiar with its use of MoCA to network TV throughout the home. What is your view on the choice of MoCA (using existing coax cable) as a networking platform versus other options that are out there? What do you think of wireless networking platforms and when do you think we’re likely to see a wireless solution deployed that can effectively stream HDTV?”
Brian H. Whitton... Prior to selecting MoCA as the technology for networking set top boxes, home routers, and the ONT, Verizon's Technology organization carefully evaluated and tested each competing home networking technology, including wireless. Wireless networking, specifically 802.11, is a great home networking technology in that it allows a customer to move their device, typically a PC or laptop, about their home or residence. Verizon's broadband home router that we supply to each FiOS customer at the time of installation includes support for 802.11 so customers can network their PC to the router without a wire. However, device mobility through the home is one of several key needs that customers expect their service provider to fulfill. Customer's expect the video delivery mechanism to work all the time during transmission. We know that wireless delivery is problematic in this regard as it is susceptible to signal fading which in turn would drop packets of video information, something that would be apparent to a viewer watching TV, particularly HD. Our selection of MoCA was made after careful consideration of all the requirements, including speed and packet resiliency. MoCA came out as the best technology to use for delivering IP video content to TV.
John S. Czwarta... “I’ve used all your time so here’s a good one on MDUs to end: “The Verizon FiOS TV franchise was recently approved in my neighborhood, though I’ve heard from a variety of sources that fiber won’t be run to apartment buildings. As an apartment dweller (in a 40 year old building with hundreds of units), is this accurate? If so, is this a technical or financial issue?”
Brian H. Whitton… Serving MDU's with FTTP is a very important part of Verizon's FiOS strategy. Our network construction of the fiber plant passes not only single family residences, but includes MDU's as well. Our preference would be to serve MDU's by pulling the fiber directly in the living unit and placing an identical ONT to what is used to serve single family homes in the living unit. We are currently serving many MDU's with this design. In cases where we will be unable to pull fiber from the basement or entry point of the MDU to the living unit, we have certified other types of ONTs, namely a MDU ONT. This ONT would be located within the MDU, typically in the equipment room in the basement of the MDU, and would use the existing wiring in the MDU to carry high speed data and video to the living units.
To be continued... (as Part II, below)
Part II: John FiOS Engineer Answers Your Questions, II
Posted by John 'CZ' Czwartacki in PolicyBlog on Thursday, April 12, 2007
Brian Whitton, Executive Director of Access Network Design and Integration for Verizon, was able to answer your remaining questions re: FiOS and our fiber optic innovations (see here for the first half of the Q&A). [Note: The format here appears different because the first set was done live via instant messaging and these, because of time, were done via email.]
Our geeky-goodness continues with answers about HDTV, TiVO, CableCard, and IPTV. Questions are in bold italics.
Q. Verizon representatives have gone on the record stating that HD content delivered over FiOS is never compressed beyond what is was when received from the content provider. That being said, is there theoretical limit to the amount of HD channels that FiOS can deliver? Will FiOS TV and Internet customers ever need to worry about their TV traffic stealing from their data bandwidth?
A. We transmit the HD stream at the bit rate and format in which we receive it from the content provider. We have no need to compress it further given the capacity our all fiber network design provides. As we have communicated in the past, our current network design has all broadcast video content, including analog, standard definition and high definition channels, carried over 1 of the 3 wavelengths operational on the FTTP passive optical network (PON). As both the demand for more channelized content and the availability of channels continues to grow, we would evaluate accommodating additional channel capacity over the other downstream wavelength. So, from a practical perspective, we do not see a limitation to the number of HD channels that can be delivered across the FTTP network.
Regarding the second part of the question, we have designed FTTP to continue to expand the amount of available bandwidth to the home, for both video and broadband data, to meet and exceed what customers would want today and in the foreseeable future. For example, we have announced our plans to rollout GPON, which increases the amount of downstream bandwidth by a factor of 4, and the upstream bandwidth by a factor of 8. This bandwidth is in addition to the bandwidth on the PON set aside for broadcast TV. Consequently, we do not anticipate bandwidth congestion from video and data services in the home being an issue.
Q. Is there any possibility of Verizon licensing the TiVo software, as Comcast and Cox have done, for FiOS?
A. I am not familiar with any plans to do so, but we continually re-evaluate our product set and seek ways to enhance the quality of our FiOS TV product for our customers.
Q. FiOS currently supports CableCARD systems, such as the TiVo Series3. Should this continue indefinitely? Will Verizon continue to add channels to the standard digital tier that CC devices can access, or will they begin using Switched Digital Video for channels, locking out CC 1.0 devices?
A. That is correct, we do support CableCard so that devices, or hosts as they are often referred to, that are CableCard compliant can view encrypted content. We have no plans to cease support for CableCard. Since our launch of FiOS TV in 3Q'05, we have continued to expand our broadcast channel lineup, inclusive of both SD and HD content. Using the bandwidth enabled by FTTP, our plans are to continue adding broadcast channels this year and CC devices will of course be able to decrypt and view these channels as well.
Verizon views IP TV as the next stage in the evolution of entertainment video. The industry, comprised of equipment manufacturers, service and content providers, are currently evaluating the solution for digital rights managements for video delivery using a unicast and multicast approach and it would be premature to speculate what the impact might be on CabeCard devices.
Q. When will I be able to get FiOS in my home?
A. It is hard to say not knowing what state and town you live in. We have and continue to execute successfully on our commitment to make FiOS available to an additional 3M households each year. At the end of 2006, we had passed in excess of 6M residences and businesses, and will pass 3M more, each year, through 2010. You can go here to inquire about FiOS availability in your local area.
Q. Does FiOS have the Free to air OTA Networks available to TV’s equipped with QAM tuners? so that an additional box @ $5 a month isn’t required for all televisions.
A. Yes. We carry SD over the air channels both in analog and QAM. HD OTA is carried over QAM only. TVs with built in QAM tuners will be able to view all unencrypted content over QAM. Of course, an HD TV with an integrated QAM tuner is required to view the unencrypted HD content.
Q. With a fiber connection being symmetric, many fiber providers such as Paxio (www.paxio.net) are providing symmetric connections such as 5Mbit, 10Mbit, 30Mbit. Why is Verizon keeping this arbitrary asymmetric limit with Fiber?
A. Our products are carefully crafted based on feedback we get from our customers. Indeed, our FTTP network can easily support a symmetric data service. As market dynamics change, we would re-assess the benefit to our customers of introducing a class of symmetric data services.
Q. In light of both the increased range of the PON home-run architecture and the additional physical footprint acquired in the MCI merger, when can we expect to establish a truly national presence and compete directly with AT&T, Embarq, etc.?
A. Verizon's announced plans for deployment of FTTP are limited to our local telecom footprint.