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Summary:

Verizon today boosted its upload speeds across its FiOS fiber-to-the-home broadband packages, which leads me to wonder if upload speeds are the new download speeds in a saturated market for broadband. Om and I both have complained about anemic upload speeds, which are becoming more of […]

verizonlogoVerizon today boosted its upload speeds across its FiOS fiber-to-the-home broadband packages, which leads me to wonder if upload speeds are the new download speeds in a saturated market for broadband. Om and I both have complained about anemic upload speeds, which are becoming more of a handicap in today’s world of video uploads and online backup. Given Verizon’s history as an innovator in broadband (spending $23 million billion on fiber is a bold move), and a renewed package of incentives out today to drive subscription rates (you get a netbook or a Flip camcorder with a triple-play subscription), upstream speeds may get more competitive. From a Verizon blog post today touting the changes:

We think broadband isn’t really fast unless it’s two-way fast, and we’re amping up speeds in both directions for our most popular FiOS Internet services. We’re also offering incentives for consumers to switch to FiOS.

We’re raising the speed of our entry-level FiOS Internet service from 10/2 Mbps to 15/5 Mbps, and we’re raising the speed of our flagship, mid-tier offering from 20/5 Mbps to 25/15 Mbps. In downstate New York, FiOS Internet is even faster with a new entry-level speed of 25/15 Mbps and a new mid-tier offering of 35/20 Mbps available in bundles.

Cable providers, because of limited spectrum allocated for upstream, may have difficulty matching such boosts, making upstream speed a prime candidate for differentiation between cable and telecommunications providers — or perhaps merely between those communication providers that offer fiber-to-the-home. Companies, such as AT&T, which provide fiber to the node can offer symmetrical  upstream speeds but both upstream and downstream speeds are limited by how far away a customer’s home may be from the node. For example, AT&T currently offers downstream speeds of 18 Mbps in some areas, but upstream peaks at 1.5 Mbps.

Right now, the vast majority of consumers don’t bump up against upstream limits often, but if service providers really want to get people excited about faster download packages ,they’re going to need to deliver services such as home security applications and video conferencing that require both fast downstream and upstream speeds. Only then will average consumers see the need to upgrade to $100, 50 Mbps broadband packages. But at that point, they’re also going to notice if their provider is sucking up their content with the equivalent of a cocktail straw while delivering downloads with a fire hose. Then Verizon’s upgrades will look prescient, kind of like its investment in fiber-to-the-home does today.

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  1. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, June 22, 2009

    Hmmm… wonder what’s going to happen to my new FiOS account which I just opened a few weeks back. I’m paying $65 for the 20Mbps both up and down. Looks like that price will boost my download throughput to 25Mbps but drop my upload speeds to 15Mbps.

    1. I bet you can get grandfathered in to the 20/20.

  2. I wish I could get 1.5Mbps upstream from AT&T. In downtown San Francisco I can only get 768Mbps upstream on AT&T’s fastest DSL service offering.

    I’d gladly pay more if it were available.

  3. Doug Mohney Monday, June 22, 2009

    JAWeston: Pray to the WiMAX to arrive soon to put competitive pressure on AT&T.

    Faster upstream speeds are great if you are doing off-site (i.e out of your home) archiving. Or videoconferencing.

    The DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem I have here on loan/trial from Cox Northern Virginia (thank YOU J.D.!) is billed as 50/5, but pulls more like 6 Mbps upstream (ok, there aren’t many other people in the neighborhood).

    To really tax that 5-6 Mbps upstream, I’d have to be doing large data backups on a regular basis, me thinks. Or hosting servers — which really should be hosted at a service provider.

  4. Robert Welbourn Monday, June 22, 2009

    Typo: I think Verizon’s spending on fiber is more likely to be $23 *billion*, not million.

    1. Robert, you’re right. I fixed it.

  5. David Hughes Monday, June 22, 2009

    I called Verizon today and asked about the new speeds here in Northern VA. I have 20/20 and she said the new speeds were for the New York city environs and if the higher speeds became available here it would mean an increase in pice.

  6. Yes, upload speed is important. What upload speeds providers can offer depends ultimately on what speeds the hardware supports. If a provider tries to offer a symmetric service using asymmetric hardware, the upload speed will be more “oversubscribed” than the download speed.

    Verizon’s FiOS hardware is asymmetric — either BPON (622/155 Mbps) or GPON (2.4/1.2 Gbps) — shared by up to 32 connections.

    AT&T’s U-Verse hardware, VDSL2, is also asymmetric. So is Comcast’s DOSCIS 3.0.

    You’re right that no law of physics prevents the use of hardware with symmetric upload and download speeds. IEEE has standardized 100/100 Mbps and 1/1 Gbps point-to-point fiber connections and 1/1 Gbps GEPON fiber connections (802.3ah), and plans to standardize 10/10 Gbps 10GEPON fiber connections later this year (802.3av). UTOPIA’s municipal FTTH system is using 100/100 Mbps point-to-point connections; its retail service providers offer Internet services with speeds up to 100/100 Mbps.

  7. Ya, Verizon spent 23 BILLION on FIOS. Every other ISP is upgrading, except for Time Warner…

  8. Verizon’s plan changes are nice and all, however the big focus on upload speeds is somewhat reversed with their kibosh on the 20 Mbps symmetric tier. Granted, 15 Mbps is the fastest speed on uploads of any non-fiber establishment (which Verizon is competing against) and you can get 20 Mbps up with the 50 Mbps down plan. More to that, Verizon is offering 35/20 in NYC. Still, dropping uploads by 25% isn’t my idea of fun.

  9. Dana Spiegel Monday, June 22, 2009

    Not really sure what “Downstate New York” means, since the new speeds *AREN’T* available in NYC. I have Fios in Brooklyn (a 20/5) connection, and when I called today to upgrade to the 25/15 connection speed (for only $8 more/month), I was told by the friendly Service Rep that the new speeds aren’t available at my location.

    I’m not sure if this is just an issue with Verizon’s systems during the rollout (goodness knows they have a lot of billing systems to update), but if these speeds aren’t offered in NYC, then its pretty clear that Verizon is lying through its teeth with this announcement.

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