Verizon eyes more flexible FiOS data options

Mon Dec 6, 2010 3:52pm EST

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* Eyes more flexibility in data speed options

* Says a-la-carte TV not urgent in first half 2011

* Sees tablet on-demand app in Q1

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) is studying a plan that would allow its FiOS customers to choose different combinations of broadband speeds and TV channels, a top executive said on Monday.

The moves comes as Verizon and other cable and telephone distributors look for new ways to make their services appealing, given rising competition in video Web offerings from Google Inc (GOOG.O) Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and NetFlix Inc (NFLX.O).

Bob Mudge, the newly appointed top executive of FiOS, said in an interview that Verizon would soon offer customers the flexibility to mix and match service plans depending on how much they watched TV versus how much they used the Web.

Today, the only Internet speed available to customers who get the smallest package of 180 FiOS TV channels is the relatively slow 15 megabits per second. That costs $84.99 per month. Customers who get the 275 channel package can only get Internet speeds of 25 megabits per second for $94.99 per month.

The new plan would mean that customers who sign up for fewer channels could still get the fastest Web speeds if they wanted. Alternatively, customers could choose to combine the larger suite of channels with a slower Web connection.

Mudge did not discuss how pricing would work.

He also declined to say when he expects to roll out this option. But he did say it was more urgent to Verizon than a-la-carte TV, a concept that would let consumers choose to pay for only the channels they want to receive.

"I do believe the issue of a-la-carte content is an issue that will be growing," Mudge said, citing competition from rivals such as NetFlix or Apple, which offer individual shows.

But he said: "I don't see urgency (for a-la-carte programming) in the front half of 2011."

Mudge said Verizon is also pushing hard to bring TV to mobile devices and computers. In the last three weeks, FiOS customers have been able to rent a movie on demand using either their TV set, desktop computer or certain advanced cellphones with a service called Flex View.

"We've seen thousands on thousands of downloads using that application," he said.

Mudge is now anxious to accelerate Verizon's plans for mobile video and is aiming to have an application in the first quarter for tablet computers such as Apple's iPad.

The executive eventually expects to show live TV broadcasts on devices such as tablets, but noted this would be unlikely before the middle of 2011 since it requires agreements with TV broadcasters.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Andre Grenon)

((sinead.carew@thomsonreuters.com +1 646 223 6186)) Keywords: VERIZON/FIOS

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