Why I No Longer Think Verizon is Crazy

FiOS is the Future ...

I've mentioned probably at a time or two on this site and posts on other sites, when I found out what that group of Verizon workers was burying in my back yard, which was the initial fiber to my neighborhood, I was ready to offer them drinks, food, electricity, water or whatever else they needed to keep working (through the night if necessary).

Once the fiber was in the ground, I checked Verizon's website daily to see if I could get FiOS until I finally could. I was already a Verizon DSL customer at the time, but ... OMG ... those speeds! I was one of the very first installations in my town. Later on, when we considered moving, my first stipulation was that any home we moved into had to have FiOS service available. It was that significant. Almost every person I knew that could get FiOS did get it. (It probably helped that our [only] cable internet provider had abysmal service both in speed and quality.)

... Until it Wasn't

When Verizon started to slow (or stop) their expansion of FiOS in the spring of 2010, I thought they were just plain nuts. (See these articles PC Mag, USA Today, Seattle Times, Syracuse.com, and Press of Atlantic City for as long as the links last.) In my mind, FiOS was the internet version of crack. Install it and they will come. Once someone had FiOS internet (TV came later), there was no going back. One of the first reasons that Verizon cited for stopping the expansion was that they were getting a lot of push back from investors. I read that and was thinking, "Screw those short-sighted, money-grubbing bastards! Go for the long game, Verizon."

It wasn't until later that I learned what Verizon claimed the costs were for deploying fiber to the home (FTTH). Those were about $750 just to run it past a house and another $600 to actually connect a home. Okay, $1350 per connected house is more than I would have guessed. And $750 per house if the house didn't get service is pretty stiff. (Those numbers might be exaggerated somewhat in that Google Fiber - fiber installed by a company that probably doesn't get that same supplier discounts as Version - is estimated to be in the $500-700 range.) In my small microcosm of FiOS coverage, pretty much every house has the service and has for over a decade, so they have made back the investment our collective cases anyway. However, according to this DSL Reports post, the penetration overall never broke 40%. Ouch.

Instead, Maybe They Are Geniuses

In June and July of 2017, Verizon announced they are once again putting fiber into the ground. Lots of it; 37 million miles. But not for FiOS. At least, not specifically. It's for their wireless business. However, I can see where their wireless business may become both their mobile and fixed internet service. Reading the 5G LTE specification, wireless internet should eventually reach a "user experienced data rate" of 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink. That's twice the downlink and the same uplink speed I get with FiOS internet coming directly into my home.

Assuming service providers can pull that off - and to be sure, it will take a while to reach those speeds just like 4G LTE adoption did - what's the point of spending all that money running fiber to each residence? All they would need to do is run fiber to a cell tower that's nearby and then let 5G LTE cover the last mile. In that regard, spending money on running fiber to each home/apartment/condo/townhouse/camper/tent/etc. would eventually be a waste. It's likely Verizon saw the writing on the wall, and except for those cities where even wireless internet penetration is a problem, they may just be holding off.

The issue with wireless is that it's a shared medium and one or two "data hogs" getting service from the same cellular base station can make everyone's experience bad in that region. There are ways they could throttle this (and are). Also, they could use more cell towers, but make them smaller, shorter and lower power. These would each cover a smaller area, but with a good fiber backbone threaded into most city blocks, the effect would be a faster wireless network overall. In addition, cell phones would not need to transmit at as high of a power as they might otherwise, thus saving battery power. Metrocell, Femtocell, and Picocells are just such small-scale cellular base stations, and they've been around for a while. I can't say that's how will do it, but they must need all that fiber for something. It's how I would do it.