Verizon To Launch a Home Media Server In 2012, Plans To Eliminate Set-Top Box

Verizon will be rolling out a new Media Server product for its FiOS customers later next year, which will be a single hardware device that will eventually eliminate the need for a set-top box altogether. The server will be capable of streaming HD TV to all devices in the home, including the TV, of course, but also gaming systems, mobile devices and tablets like the iPad. Although the company has not officially announced details, timeframe or pricing, we were recently given a sneak peek into the company’s plans.

You can see the Media Server in this promotional video discussing Verizon’s focus on the energy efficiency of its products. Here, Tushar Saxena, Director of Technology at Verizon, talks about the upgrades Verizon’s set-top boxes have seen in recent months. He shows a big box that’s an example of outdated tech (hey, that’s my box!) and a more compact, 30% more energy efficient model. Saxena then shows off new set-top boxes, yet to be released, which are even smaller, and will soon be small enough to “velcro behind your TV,” he says.

But what’s interesting is that these tiny set-top boxes are meant for the additional TVs in the house – your main TV will be attached a larger Media Server, also shown in the video, underneath the stack of set-top boxes. The server will stream media to other Internet-connected devices, including laptops, Xboxes, PlayStations, tablets and mobile devices like the iPhone, the video explains. Saxena says that the plan is to eventually eliminate the set-top box altogether by providing applications to all the IP-connected devices, including TVs, that can directly communicate with the server over Wi-Fi. This transition should occur in a “few year’s time,” he notes.

Getting rid of set-top boxes means increased energy efficiency of course, which was the point of the video. But a Verizon spokesperson tells us that the Media Server itself will be released in late 2012.

Verizon is also running tests involving streaming 3D HD TV over Wi-Fi, using the same media server technology. Routers in Verizon’s test labs have successfully transmitted a 3D HD FiOS signals (40 Mbps) over 200 feet, through sheetrock and steel walls, without the loss of video quality. There’s a demo of that in action here¬†using routers with multiple antenna arrays streaming over the 802.11n standard in conjunction with the media server hardware.

During a time when everyone is thinking of cutting the cable, so to speak, it’s interesting to watch developments like this which are more correctly envisioning TV as a service that should be available on any screen in the home.

Now here’s hoping Verizon’s pricing hits the mark, too.

Update: Motorola wants you all to know that the Media Server is actually, an “advanced set-top gateway — a nextgen, smarter set-top that can now communicate to multiple devices in the home,” according to a company spokesperson, “…when people read the set-top is going away, they automatically (and mistakenly) assume our business is doomed.”

Is there an emoticon for an eyeroll?