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Videoconferencing coming to FiOS homes

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FiOS customers can expect to see some kind of videoconferencing service added to their service package, possibly even this year. But don’t expect the hype around personal videoconferencing that has accompanied past efforts, dating all the way back to the 1964 World’s Fair and AT&T’s Video Telephone.

“We are interested in it, and you will see something from us this year,” said Bill Heilig, vice president of product management and development for broadband connected home solutions at Verizon. “But we don’t regard video telephony as the silver bullet. It is in a clip of silver bullets in the digital connected home space. We view it in the context of multiple apps that Verizon can install, manage and bill for – the Verizon special sauce is the middleware to make it easy to hook up the next device and the next new service.”

Verizon is building its service strategy around four pillars -- entertainment, productivity, communications, monitoring and controls – and is finalizing what that strategy will look like, Heilig said. Services such as remote energy management and security also are on the roadmap and could be in the market as early as this year as well.

“I would like to be out in the market by the end of this year or early next year with remote energy monitoring and control applications, and right now we are doing our market scan, which includes supplier interviews, and on a parallel path, we are doing our business case, and we are communicating at senior business levels,” Heilig said. “It takes some time, but this program is so important that we are putting a lot of things on the fast track and doing things in parallel. It is critical to be out there with that kind of product, given that the current administration could well sign the Kyoto Accord.”

If the US joins other nations of the world in the Kyoto Accord to limit greenhouse gases, mandatory controls will be necessary on energy consumption.

Home security is another area of interest, and Heilig said Verizon is looking at the broadband connection into the home as a means of managing security in new ways. Security has special appeal because churn rates are low – about 7% a year – and as a “lifestyle” add-on, security could help reduce overall churn.

As for IP-based videoconferencing, it is a natural extension of the infrastructure Verizon has put in place to offer voice-over-IP, Heilig said.

“We are putting a lot of infrastructure to support VoIP – softswtiches, interfaces to OSSs – and that infrastructure also handles multimedia communications as well,” Heilig said. “It’s a natural progression to go from voice-over-IP to video-over-IP, and we will bring the robust elements of telephony into that.”

And while Verizon may well offer an upscale videoconferencing service – “There is always a market for expensive gizmos,” Heilig said – its mass-market offering will likely sit somewhere in the middle, above the Skype-type grainy Webcam services available today but below the high-resolution telepresence that corporate America is adopting.

“If you think about the full video-telephony program, we think it has to be on the TV, but it also has to be on the PC,” Heilig said. “So today you’ve got PC-to-PC at the low end, with higher end, TV-to-TV possibly. Then with a good communications switching fabric in there , you can go PC-to-TV, and ultimately that’s where we’re headed.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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