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Verizon Hones Home Networking

SOURCE: Light Reading
August 14, 2006

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ - message board) 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.

Verizon Media Manager Interface

Media Manager Interface

Screen shot of Verizon Media Manager user interface (image courtesy of Verizon)

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 - message board), 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. 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 - message board) 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