|Technology Enhancements are Quickly Changing the Future of Communications:|
Verizon’s Network Innovations are Shaping our Telecommunications Future
We all know that in today’s world people’s lives revolve around communication networks. That is especially true for members of the millennial generation who have never known a world without mobile phones and the Internet. As Verizon’s Chairman Ivan Seidenberg said at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, “our customers are using technology to erase the boundaries, whether these boundaries are between home and work, virtual or real. They imagine, actually demand, access to everything at their fingertips. They see everything being connected including their homes, offices, cars, buildings, streets and cities.”
Today there are two primary drivers that are transforming the way that consumers stay connected at home, at the office and at play. Those drivers are high definition video and mobile wireless High quality, high definition video is being watched on wide-screen TVs, interactive game consoles, tablets and computer monitors. It is penetrating America’s homes, schools and offices, and can even be found in elevators, taxi cabs and shopping carts. Before too long, once-futuristic applications like 3-D video conferencing, holographic games and virtual travel will be part of our daily lives.
Wireless data usage is doubling annually, and smart phones are growing at almost 90 percent a year. A whole new computing platform for mobile broadband has emerged, creating a thriving market for mobile applications, and changing the way everyone interacts with the Internet. Wireless technologies have advanced so rapidly that they now do most of what was once only possible with a computer connected at your desk.
The responsibility for Verizon’s technology roadmap, including overall platform integrity, architecture, and product innovation lies with Tony Melone, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Verizon Communications.
Prior to being named to his current position in December 2010, Tony Melone was senior vice president and chief technical officer for Verizon Wireless. In that position he led the transition of the Verizon Wireless network from 3G services to the commercial launch of 4G LTE services.
Verizon’s investment in network infrastructure over the past decade has been one of the key driving forces behind this innovation. Network innovation has made the U.S. broadband market one of the most innovative and competitive in today’s world. At Verizon, they have always believed that to meet customers’ evolving needs, you need great networks. Verizon’s “High-IQ” networks are the hub of the wheel that’s moving the industry forward. They are one of the accelerants that will ensure that the “next big thing” becomes a reality.
To deliver all of this high- bandwidth content to HDTVs, PCs, tablets and other devices, Verizon reinvented their wired network. In the last decade, they built one of the largest and fastest fiber-optic networks in the U.S. Today their all-fiber FiOS network covers nearly 16 million homes and will be available to about 18 million households by the time they are through.
FiOS was designed to handle the growing volume of HD content available today. More important, it is the ideal infrastructure to deliver the bandwidth-intensive innovations of tomorrow.
They have been a pioneer in transmitting full-resolution, high-definition 3-D video, which preserves the complete 1080p picture quality that customers expect. Verizon has already aired the first 3-D broadcasts for college football, the NFL and major league baseball, and they are continually growing their catalog of 3-D on demand movies. This is a great example of building a future-proof network with the necessary bandwidth to meet consumer demand for the latest technology.
The capacity of a direct fiber connection enabled Verizon to “up the ante” for home broadband. They recently tripled their top FiOS downstream speed to 150 megabits per second, which sets a new benchmark for high-speed Internet in America. Verizon did this to transform the broadband experience for their customers. With their 150 mbps service, it takes less than four and a half minutes to download a full-length high-definition movie which takes about four and a half hours on your average network connection.
Verizon engineers have successfully tested 1 gigabit speeds on the same FiOS architecture Verizon uses to provide service today. They have tested a ten gigabit connection over their fiber network using XG-PON2 technology, which is capable of downloading that same HD movie in only four seconds.
Verizon has also built intelligence into the FiOS network to meet the demands of an “anywhere, anytime” world. Verizon’s FiOS FlexView video service is an early glimpse at the new ways customers will consume media content in the years ahead. With FlexView, customers can stream video on their choice of screens, including TVs, PCs, laptops, tablets or smart phones. They can choose from thousands of on-demand titles, which are stored in the cloud and can move seamlessly between devices. This means a customer can start watching a movie at home on their TV and continue watching it on a wireless device while waiting for the subway.
The intelligence and high capacity built into Verizon’s network also provide industry opportunities for new two- way video services. This is obviously important to the gaming community, where low-latency response rates can be a matter of “virtual” life and death. But the customers can also take advantage of fiber’s speed and capacity to enjoy high-definition video calls on their wide-screen TV in the comfort of their living room. The high-quality video and real-time response rate provide an interactive video chat experience so realistic that you will think everyone is in the same room.
In this high-capacity and increasingly mobile world, content, whether it’s video, still images, software, or mission-critical data, must be able to move across and among networks at the will of the customer. This has made the term “cloud services” the great buzzword of 2011, and thus the ability to provide a consistently seamless customer experience across any device located anywhere in the world. Fortunately, this is a familiar concept to those in the network business. Verizon has invested heavily in their global IP backbone, worldwide data center assets and cloud-based security services and managed solutions. As a result, they are well positioned in the emerging cloud services market. Verizon recently acquired Terremark, a global provider of managed IT infrastructure and cloud services. Combined with their global IP network and Terremarks’s digital storehouses, anything that can be digitized will be available to Verizon customers wherever they travel.
As part of their cloud services, Verizon recently launched a groundbreaking new distribution platform that helps bridge the gap between content creators and retailers. Verizon’s Digital Media Service will help entertainment and media companies meet consumers’ increasing demand for live and on-demand video content on their smart phones, tablets and other devices. This unique delivery platform, built on top of their high-IQ infrastructure, will create new business models for digital entertainment
None of this customer control and flexibility would be possible without reliable high-speed mobile networks. Verizon is several months into their roll-out of the first large-scale 4G LTE network in the U.S. By the end of this year, they will provide LTE service in more than 175 markets across the country. Over the next three years, they will blanket virtually the whole country, including all of the places where Verizon provides 3G service today. LTE will allow Verizon to do things that cannot be done with wireless today.
LTE is a pure IP technology that transcends current network limitations. Verizon conservatively estimated that they would see data speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second with LTE, and their network performance exceeded their expectations. The other part of the LTE equation is latency, or network delay, which is cut in half by LTE.
These dual forces of faster speeds and lower latency together make LTE a transformational force that will improve the digital lifestyles of the world. Customers are hungry for this kind of speed and power. Sales of the first LTE smart phone, the HTC ThunderBolt, have been strong, and Verizon plans to launch even more LTE devices in 2011. At the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Verizon announced one of the world’s first voice over LTE calls using a smart phone. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) will provide users with rich communications services and outstanding call quality. Their demonstrations help lead the way toward commercial availability of interoperable, global devices and network infrastructure supporting voice services over LTE.
VoLTE is based on established industry standards, and will give network operators the ability to offer enhanced voice services on LTE networks around the globe. Consumers will then benefit from additional mobile services such as presence, video and chat. These services will be available from any device, location or service provider in both mobile and fixed broadband data networks. Verizon has always been an innovator in the technology industry, and VoLTE is one more example. Verizon has worked hard on this technology, and they expect to have commercial VoLTE services available in 2012. With LTE and other 4G technologies, Verizon and others will finally enable smart homes and smart offices, provide mobile health care and improve energy management. These are things that people have talked about for years that have now become reality.
Verizon is working to take advantage of all the opportunities their sophisticated networks are helping create. Some of those opportunities include:
• They are testing a connected home solution that will roll out this year.
• They are partnering with utility companies like Duke Energy to create smart grids.
• They are showing hospitals how they can create a smarter health care system.
• They are helping educators use Verizon technology that can improve performance in science, technology and engineering. In the months and years ahead, LTE network will enable life- enhancing two-way services such as:
• Enhanced doctor-patient video interaction, X-rays and MRI remote consults in medical emergencies.
• Remote camera control and threat assessment at crime scenes.
• Real-time video feeds to first responders as they’re responding to a disaster.
All of this innovation is a result of the advanced intelligence Verizon builds into their networks. Managing the unique properties of all things digital requires much more than just a larger “pipe.”
But no single company, and no single segment of the industry, can realize the full promise of the broadband era on its own. Just as fiber and LTE are the new technology platforms of the future, collaboration and openness will be the operating platforms of the future, and they require new kinds of partnerships among all of the players in the Internet ecosystem.
In the broadband arena, devices, applications, operating systems and networks interact in complex ways, creating a market that is highly collaborative and highly competitive at the same time. In this environment, players from all across the industry have to work together to provide the best value and deliver a superior customer experience.
Verizon, is doing everything they can to stimulate this collaborative process. Verizon created an open development platform for their FiOS network by publishing a software development kit, complete with APIs, which enables developers to publish apps on their applications store.
FiOS customers now have access to a variety of interactive apps for news, sports, entertainment, shopping and social media, providing an Internet experience on their TV. To build an industry ecosystem for their LTE network, Verizon created an LTE Innovation Center in Waltham, Massachusetts. They will also be opening an Application Innovation Center in San Francisco. Each center features dedicated labs for development and testing, as well as an Experience Center to showcase new ideas.
Verizon has been working with more than 60 developers to create advanced LTE devices. A few are listed below:
• One is a product for the video industry called Live Edge, which integrates an LTE device into a standard industry camera. This enables it to transmit live broadcast- quality HD video to network studios from anywhere in reach of an LTE network.
This compact and disruptive innovation eliminates the need for satellite trucks and microwave networks, and significantly reduces delivery time and costs. Every major broadcast network is interested in this technology.
• The second prototype is a product called the Media Tile. Basically, you plug a portable video screen into any standard power connection to create a “human kiosk.” The device connects a customer face-to-face with service reps who can answer any question, in any language, on the spot. This is an ideal solution for markets such as retail, hospitality, health care, tech support or banking.
• Third is a high-resolution LTE-enabled video camera which has the potential to dramatically improve field operations, remote diagnostics and the like. In essence, this is an interactive SLR-sized camera that gives business, governments and utilities the ability to collaborate with remote experts using voice and HD video. This is all made possible by the two way capacity and high-fidelity of the LTE network. Verizon’s early and unwavering commitment to LTE has allowed Verizon to help shape this ecosystem of innovation. By sending a strong signal to software developers, chip manufacturers and the consumer electronics industry that Verizon is serious about LTE, they have responded with equal passion.
In the future, you will see widespread LTE connectivity in things like home appliances, automobiles, and cameras. There will be millions of developers around the globe creating billions of applications, and doing it for a network standard that is truly global. The potential is not only extraordinary, but virtually limitless. The sheer scale of connections in this new world will be mind-boggling. The number of sensors embedded in objects and linked to the Internet will grow from 4 billion today to 60 billion by the end of this decade. The volume of data generated by the Internet is expected to double every 18 months. The migration of computing power into the cloud will help Verizon turn all that information into intelligence that the world can use to create new industries and revolutionize existing ones.
The rapid changes in technology have increased the need for standards bodies to identify technology trends earlier in their development cycles. This will enable standards to be created faster that meet the needs of all members of this industry. This will also help avoid proprietary models that fragment the industry, limit inter-operability and confuse consumers.
Tony Melone has noted that “the industry’s success is largely based on the ability to transform our business models to meet evolving markets. Embracing partnerships and open collaboration will allow Verizon to continue providing value to consumers while maintaining an innovative and competitive environment”.
The benefits of the new era of connectivity will be global, but its epicenter is right here in North America. This widening circle of innovation and collaboration can help reinvent the American economy, create growth and opportunity on a massive scale and most importantly make sure that telecommunications customers’ future will continue to revolve around great networks.