Verizon eyes lasers as possible replacement for 'unsightly coaxial cable' in subscriber homes

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) could one day rely on laser transmitters to deliver video to multiple rooms in FiOS TV subscriber homes, according to technology it disclosed in a patent application published Thursday.

The telco has built a fiber-to-the-home network for FiOS TV. Since launching FiOS in 2005, it has installed optical network terminals in FiOS TV homes which are connected to existing coaxial cable installed by cable operators. In new homes, Verizon has installed its own coaxial cable. But Verizon notes in the patent application that using laser transmitters may a better option than coax, and that the technology doesn't have the bandwidth limitations of wireless technology such as Wi-Fi.

"In some installations, unsightly coaxial cable may be laid in a premises. However, this approach has drawbacks, such as that a video device must be close to a cable outlet and that it may be difficult, inconvenient, and expensive to add an outlet," Verizon states in the patent application.

The patent application details how the company could use laser beam projectors to deliver video to multiple rooms in a house. It also shows how it may be able to overcome challenges posed by line-of-sight issues.

"Rather than being optically aligned to a particular receiver, the laser beam projector may instead direct a modulated laser beam at a surface of a structure, such as a tabletop, a wall, a ceiling, or a floor. A receiver may use telescope optics to focus on the surface at a location substantially where the modulated laser beam may be directed…  Such an approach has the advantages of avoiding long cable runs, providing for a broadband connection with substantial bandwidth, having freedom from electromagnetic interference, and having an ability to be set up without maintaining a precise transmitter-to-receiver optical alignment," Verizon states in the patent application.

In 2011, AT&T (NYSE: T) began offering Wi-Fi based set-tops to U-verse TV subscribers. Its Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) set-tops ease the installation process for technicians and allow it to install pay TV service in rooms without drilling holes for coaxial cable. But Verizon says the wireless approach may not be effective, as it sees increased demand for high-definition programming that requires substantial bandwidth.

Verizon filed the patent application on March 14. The inventors named on the application are Tiejun Xia and Glenn Wellbrock.

For more:
- see the patent application

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