Verizon Communications is putting the pedal to the metal on its FiOS service with a new 300Mbps option next month, offering a majority of its customers a wild Internet ride, though it hasn't said how much that ride will cost.
The company said Wednesday it will refresh its portfolio of services next month, introducing four new speed tiers. The most eye-catching will be the top plan, with 300Mbps (bits per second) downstream and 65Mbps upstream. With that grade of service, subscribers will be able to download a two-hour high-definition movie in 2.2 minutes and upload five minutes of HD home video in 31 seconds, according to Verizon. The fastest FiOS service now is 150Mbps downstream and 35Mbps upstream, with TV and voice, for $199.99 per month.
When it comes to national-scale broadband services, the 300Mbps service won't have any competition on the speed front. The large U.S. cable operators don't offer any services faster than about 100Mbps, and rival carrier AT&T, which doesn't build fiber all the way to homes with its competing U-Verse service, tops out at 24Mbps.
However, even the faster FiOS won't bring the U.S. to the forefront of global broadband. A survey of fiber service providers released last September by the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) showed operators offering 1Gbps speeds in Slovenia, Japan, Turkey and Sweden, and one in Norway advertising 400Mbps service.
Localized projects in the U.S. also are hitting the 1Gbps mark, or will when they go live. The most closely watched example is Google's fiber buildout in the twin cities of Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. The company said last month that it had laid 100 miles of fiber there, though it hasn't given a firm commercial launch date or pricing for its service. Google's experimental fiber network in a residential area at Stanford University is already live with 1Gbps service.
Last week, a coalition of universities said it had raised $200 million to build gigabit-speed fiber networks in six university communities. Small ISPs, including Sonic.net in California and GWI in Maine, also have built local gigabit networks.
FiOS runs over a fiber network that goes all the way to subscribers' homes and businesses, avoiding the lower capacity of copper wires. The theoretical capacity of a strand of fiber is almost limitless, and Verizon has gradually increased the speeds it offers. The 300Mbps Internet service will be available by itself or as part of bundles with TV and voice.
Also next month, Verizon will increase the upstream speeds on two of its tiers, introduce a new 75Mbps/35Mbps tier, and stop offering its 35Mbps and 25Mbps tiers for new subscribers. Verizon's 50Mbps plan will go from 20Mbps to 25Mbps upstream, and its 150Mbps service will go from 35Mbps to 65Mbps upstream.
Consumers' growing use of over-the-top Internet video programming, as well as gaming, audio streaming and online backup services, created the demand for the upgraded speeds, Verizon said. It recommends the 300Mbps and 150Mbps services for households with five or more Internet-connected users who watch HD and standard-definition video on a variety of devices.
FiOS is available to more than 13.7 million Verizon customers in parts of nine Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, as well as the District of Columbia and parts of Florida, Texas and California, according to Verizon. The service has more than 5 million customers, most of whom buy a bundled plan, Verizon spokesman Bob Elek said. A majority of FiOS customers will be able to sign up for the 300Mbps service starting in June, Elek said.
FiOS currently is priced starting at $54.99, Internet only, for the 15Mbps/5Mbps service, with a one-year commitment. A bundle with voice and TV starts at $99.99.