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Verizon's long-awaited Internet-infused TV overhaul could happen this year

Verizon is reportedly preparing a new TV service this year, one that’s vastly different from the current Fios TV offering.

The service includes a new set-top box and overhauled interface that “wont look at all” like Fios TV, Variety’s unnamed sources say, and may mix traditional channels with streaming services such as Netflix.

Beyond the new interface, Verizon’s service would also swap the underlying QAM video delivery technology for an IP-based solution. While QAM constantly sends all channels over the pipeline, IP-based video only arrives as the subscriber requests it.

The switch to IP would bring several advantages, including cost savings for Verizon and more bandwidth for faster Internet service. It could also allow Verizon to provide TV service on cheaper set-top box hardware, or to forgo its own boxes in favor of third-party devices such as Roku.

Verizon has been planning a switch to IP-based TV ever since the telco acquired Intel’s OnCue TV technology in 2014. OnCue was supposed to reimagine the pay TV experience with a mix of beautiful hardware, user-friendly software, and convenient access over any device with an Internet connection. But content providers weren’t on board, and the service never launched. Verizon acquired OnCue’s technology, intellectual property, and employees in early 2014.

Documents included in Verizon’s FCC filing mention OnCue, suggesting that some elements of that project live on in the new Verizon service. The plan, according to Variety, is to get the service running by year-end, with some testing to begin this summer, but the timeline has already been delayed once, and could shift again.

Why this matters: The TV industry is undergoing major changes, as consumers switch from big channel bundles to smaller packages and streaming services. At the same time, they’re seeking freedom from expensive cable boxes and their stodgy, outdated interfaces. Although Verizon has been dabbling in skinny channel bundles, only a complete overhaul of the underlying hardware, software, and technology will allow the telco giant to truly compete with this new reality.

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