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CES 2005

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At a press conference earlier today, Verizon launched VCast, a new suite of services for consumers designed to take advantage of the company's new ultra-fast EV-DO 3G network.

 

In the opening remarks, President and CEO Denny Strigl highlighted the company's continued focus on network quality and rigorous testing in 2005.

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Mr. Strigl was followed by Executive Vice-President and Chief Technical Officer Dick Lynch. Mr. Lynch talked about the continued expansion of the EV-DO network. Twelve new cities are being brought on-line this month, bringing the total to over 30. Lynch also promised to expand EV-DO coverage to 150 million POPs by the end of 2005, meaning the network will cover that many people (not all Verizon customers, of course).

Then John Stratton, Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, took the stage to make the big VCast announcement.

VCast includes a suite of new "3G" services, but the main attraction is undoubtedly streaming video. The fast data rates of EV-DO allow very high-quality streaming video. I had a chance to watch several clips, and the video quality is extremely impressive. It's smooth and fast - a huge difference compared to previous streaming video offerings from other companies. Verizon is using Microsoft Windows Media technology for the video encoding and compression.

The first three VCast phones will be the VX-8000 from LG, the Audiovox/UTStarcom CDM-8940, and the Samsung A890. The VX-8000 is the one they had on hand for demos (and shown in the photos below). All three are slated to be available on February 1st with the launch of VCast. Mr. Stratton mentioned that all Verizon's phone suppliers are working on EV-DO phones for the company, and they expect around 50% of their phone lineup to be VCast-capable by the end of 2005.

Verizon has partnered with a large number of big-name companies for video content, including MTV, NBC, CNN, FOX, and many more. Over 300 new video clips will be available each day. And these aren't dinky little 30-second clips, either - most clips are at least 2-5 minutes.

 

One major disappointment, though, is that there is no live content yet. So you can't watch live CNN, for example, only video-on-demand (pre-recorded clips that are updated several times during the day). According to Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney, live content will be made available in the future through separate BREW applications.

The pricing for VCast is a flat $15/month, which includes unlimited Mobile Web and streaming video (excluding music videos, which cost extra due to royalties). That's way cheaper than Sprint, who sells their much slower 1xRTT Vision service for the same price, and charges several dollars per month extra for each channel of video.

The EV-DO speed is also available for regular BREW games and applications. To highlight this, Verizon is making a big push on new 3D games in conjunction with VCast:

 

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