Verizon is blowing past cable's top broadband speeds with the debut of a FiOS Internet package that delivers 150 Megabits per second downstream and 35 up -- although at around $200 per month the service will likely have limited appeal.
The telco said it's now offering the fastest mass-market broadband service in the U.S., pointing out that the speeds easily top its cable rivals. Previously the fastest FiOS Internet tier was 50 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up.
Cablevision Systems offers a 101 Mbps downstream service, while Time Warner Cable and Comcast are offering 50 Mbps to residential customers. The 35 Mbps upload speed is more than 130% faster than Cablevision and Comcast's and seven times as fast as Time Warner Cable's.
Verizon's key reason for launching 150/35 Mbps FiOS Internet was to establish bragging rights.
"Frankly we didn't like that there was someone out there who was faster, when we could easily trump those speeds," said John Schommer, director of broadband product development for the telco. "So we decided it was the right time to introduce this just to show that we can."
DOCSIS 3.0 is capable of delivering downstream speeds of 160 Mbps -- and more -- but no cable operators in the U.S. are delivering speeds in that range yet. Germany's Kabel Deutschland recently tested a DOCSIS 3.0-based connection at more than 1 Gigabit per second.
Verizon is offering the 150/35 service to the majority of the more than 12.5 million homes that the FiOS network passes. In December, Verizon plans to launch a version of the 150/35 service for small business customers; the telco is not announcing pricing for that service.
The residential service is available in four different offers. FiOS Internet with phone service and a one-year contract is $194.95 per month, while FiOS Internet with phone service on a month-to-month basis is $209.99. FiOS Internet with a one-year contract without phone service is $199.99 per month, while FiOS Internet without voice month-to-month is $214.99.
In addition, Verizon will charge an activation fee of $49.99. Customers who opt for a month-to-month contract also are charged a $79.99 installation fee.
"Verizon is setting the stage for applications that are coming. We're creating a very big pipe," Schommer said. "Do we anticipate massive penetration? Obviously not at that price point."
But, he added, "Every single time we've made modifications to our speeds, there is always a group of customers that is clamoring for the faster speeds."
Part of the pricing strategy was to limit demand to some extent, because a truck roll is required to install the 150-Mbps tier, according to Schommer. "The worst thing we could do is have a $50 [per month] offer that inundates our operations group," he said.
With the service, the telco is using a new router from Actiontec Electronics with a Gigabit Ethernet interface and an 802.11n wireless radio with a two-by-two antenna array.
The 150/35 service requires customers to be connected via GPON (gigabit passive optical network), which Verizon has been deploying since December 2007. The company says the vast majority of customers are on GPON. Customers with older BPON (broadband passive optical network) equipment must have a new optical network terminal installed at their home.
While Verizon ordinarily uses the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) home-networking specification to connect an ONT to the FiOS Internet router, it will use Ethernet to connect them with the 150/35 service. MoCA 1.1 provides net throughput of 175 Mbps while version 2.0 will deliver up to 1 Gbps in certain configurations.
With a downstream speed of 150 Mbps, customers would be able to download a two-hour, standard-definition movie of 1.5 Gigabytes in less than 80 seconds, and a two-hour HD movie of 5 Gigabytes in less than 4.5 minutes, according to Verizon. With the 35 Mbps upstream speed, the telco estimates a user can upload 20 high-resolution photos in less than 23 seconds.
The launch of 150/35 Mbps FiOS Internet service follows Verizon's recent field trial that delivered close to 1 Gigabit per second connection speeds both downstream and upstream. The telco also tested a prestandard version of the more advanced XG-PON2 technology to deliver connection speeds of 10 Gbps over the FiOS network.
"We have showed a lot of future proofing of the network," Schommer said.
Verizon will maintain its other FiOS Internet tiers of 50/20, 25/25 and 15/5 Mbps. FiOS Internet packages of 35/35 Mbps, 25/25 Mbps and 15/5 Mbps will continue to be available in double-, triple- and quadruple-play bundles with FiOS TV, FiOS Digital Voice and/or Verizon Wireless service.