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Verizon offers live TV on cell phones

Verizon and Verizon Wireless announce plans for new TV options including live mobile TV service and an upgrade to Fios TV.

Verizon Wireless and parent company Verizon Communications unveiled a new mobile TV service and an upgrade to the latter's new Fios TV service on Sunday at a press event in Las Vegas before the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off.

The new Verizon Wireless service will offer live broadcast TV on cell phones. And Verizon Communications will launch its next generation of Fios TV service, which is designed to let viewers search for content and access video, photos and games more easily on all screens in the home. Both services are expected to launch within the next three months. Details on pricing will be announced later, the companies said.

"Fifty or even five years ago, few people could have fathomed these two products," said Denny Strigl, chief operating officer of Verizon Communications. "And they are only just the beginning. We think if you look at Verizon and its three powerful networks--wireless, fiber and our backbone network--we have an unparalleled opportunity into the future."

The new wireless service will offer viewers full-length and live programming from a number of networks, including NBC, CBS, Fox and MTV. The service, which will air shows after they appear on regular broadcast television, differs from Verizon's existing mobile video service called V Cast, which offers short video clips on demand. The V Cast service has been available from Verizon Wireless for almost two years.

Verizon Wireless' V Cast TV is the first mobile television service to use a dedicated video broadcast network built and owned by Qualcomm called MediaFlo. Qualcomm announced that Verizon would be using the network in 2005. Sprint Nextel, which also offers a video service over its 3G cellular network, has been testing the MediaFlo network since last year, a company representative said. But Sprint has not announced whether it plans to offer a live TV broadcast service to its subscribers using MediaFlo.

Even though mobile operators such as Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless have spent billions of dollars over the last few years building new 3G wireless networks in order to deliver new services such as video, these 3G networks are inadequate for delivering high volumes of live TV programming because they are designed to deliver services in a "unicast" fashion. This means that content is delivered to each individual subscriber when it is requested. By contrast, MediaFlo is a dedicated network that broadcasts video to all viewers at once, just as a traditional broadcast television network operates.

The service will debut on two phones, one from Samsung and LG's VX 9400.

Verizon Communications also announced it has upgraded the software running its Fios TV service, which will make searching for content much easier, the company said.

"Today, search on TV means channel surfing," said Bob Ingalls, chief marketing officer of Verizon. "This new experience will allow people to scan through thousands of on-demand and DVR'ed content in a simple and innovative way to cut through clutter."

The software upgrade will also allow Fios users to view content, such as movies, TV shows, digital pictures, games and music from the Internet, on either PCs or televisions.

In the future, Verizon also said it plans to expand its Fios TV service to wireless handsets, allowing subscribers to remotely control their DVRs from their phones while away from home. This kind of integration is similar to an offering that cable companies Comcast, Advance/Newhouse, Time Warner and Cox Communications plan to introduce later this year through a joint venture with Sprint Nextel.

The new version of Fios TV software is currently being tested with "friendly" customers in New Jersey. Later this year, the company plans to extend the service throughout the 10 states where Fios TV is offered.