FiOS TV: Fiber HD Right to Your Door

Wish your satellite or digital cable-TV provider offered more high-definition channels, or maybe just a better picture? Take heart: now rolling out, VERIZON FiOS TV delivers more than 350 standard-def channels as well as 20-plus high-def ones. FiOS TV - that's Fiber Optic Service - is already available in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Texas.

Verizon claims it can deliver a better picture and more HD programming by connecting high-capacity fiber-optic cable directly to an outdoor converter box at your home (see photo). The typical digital cable provider uses glass fiber to get signals to a common point on your street, where they're converted to standard electrical signals that get carried to your home on a copper wire. This bottleneck limits the system's bandwidth to 750 MHz, which gets split among cable TV, Internet, and phone services, leaving only 300 MHz for digital TV channels. (Satellite services also face bandwidth issues, because they have only so many satellites and transponders.) In comparison, FiOS TV devotes a whopping 860 MHz to digital video. That means more HD channels at full bit rate.

Then there's price. My suburban New York City cable provider, Cablevision, charges $72.59 a month for its lowest tier of digital service with an HD DVR: 110 analog and digital channels, including 12 HD channels. But nearby, Verizon FiOS TV charges $52.90 for 158 channels, including 17 in HD, also with an HD DVR. (You'll need a set-top box or a CableCARD for each TV.)

•More HD channels (at top picture quality) than local cable •Lower cost than cable competitor •All digital quality, even on standard-def shows •Fast channel changes •Free installation •
Verizon let me see FiOS TV in a consumer's home in Massa­pequa Park, New York. The picture was great on all channels, with no noise or pixelization. HD images were very crisp and vivid. Universal HD's replay of a Winter Olympics hockey game, for instance, was as pristine as the original over-the-air broadcast; puck, players, and fans' faces were all razor-sharp. I also found that I could change channels considerably faster than with Cablevision's Scientific-Atlanta HD boxes.

Cable companies better watch out. There's a new kid on the block, and he's running at the speed of light.

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