Verizon is planning on releasing a new set-top box model later this year that could substantially change how it delivers cable and internet services to Fios customers, according to a report from Variety today. The new device, codenamed "Mallard," is said to incorporate technology from OnCue, an Intel internet TV service sold off to Verizon in 2014. The phrase "video set-top box" and OnCue are both also mentioned in a series of FCC filings reported first by Light Reading earlier this week.
Verizon may drop the Fios brand
The box would deliver content from streaming services and online video from Verizon's AOL subsidiary with an all new interface distinct from the current Fios one. (Verizon may even go so far as to drop the Fios branding altogether, the report says.)
So the move would expand what Verizon can offer from its set-top box, but it would also advance another objective: switching how it delivers those offerings. As it stands, Verizon relies on traditional QAM technology, which is how digital cable signals have been encoded and transmitted by providers for years. The new box, however, may deliver cable programming using an internet-based technology similar to how services like Netflix are sent to consumers' homes. The switch is said to have been many years in the works, and it could be a big boon for Verizon's business. As Variety puts it:
The old-school QAM approach pushes all content, all the time, to consumers, whereas IP-based technology only delivers the channel a consumer is watching. The result will be massive cost savings for the company, and will free up a lot more bandwidth to give consumers faster internet access. It also makes it possible to use cheaper set-top-box technology, and possibly even forego the set-top altogether to deliver the same programming to third-party streaming devices or mobile screens.
For Verizon, the switch to an entirely internet-based home service model is in line with its recent mobile video efforts. The company has been shifting resources to try and address how younger audiences consume video, which is primarily done at no cost to consumers with apps like Snapchat and YouTube. Go90, Verizon's free video app released last year, is filled with traditional cable programming and a slate of original series, and the company is trying to monetize the service using AOL's advertising unit.
The new set-top box project, which is now borrowing resources from the Go90 team Variety says, could be an extension of the strategy to unify its network and content ambitions. If anything, it indicates Verizon is not yet done with Fios, even if the brand name may ultimately disappear. Just this week, the company announced a deal with the city of Boston to replace its copper-based infrastructure with a fiber-optic network. As part of the deal, Verizon is bringing FiosTV service to the city.