Technology

Verizon Runs Short on HD Boxes

2/05/2008 5:54 AM Eastern

Verizon Communications, which recently signed up its 1 millionth FiOS TV subscriber, has been forced to tell some new customers to sit tight for a few weeks before they can get high-definition service because it has a limited number of HD set-tops and digital video recorders in stock.

The phone company has had to “backorder HD and HD DVR set-top boxes for some customers in the short term,” Verizon manager of media relations Heather Wilner said.

In the meantime, she said, new FiOS TV customers can use a standard-definition DVR for no additional monthly charge beyond regular service fees until Verizon is able to send them an HD unit.

Verizon ordinarily charges $15.99 extra per month for an HD DVR and $9.99 for an HD receiver without a DVR. An SD DVR is regularly $12.99 per month.

Wilner claimed Verizon was simply overwhelmed with demand for HD service. “We recently hit our one-millionth customer milestone and the momentum is continuing to build,” she said.

The HD set-top shortage came to light after an anonymous user posted a message Monday on DSLReports.com, claiming Verizon has told customers that high-definition units will not be available until March 10.

Wilner would not confirm the date. “We don’t have a set date for when we’ll be filling any backorders that we may need to place, but we certainly expect to fill them as quickly,” she said.

Verizon uses a unique, hybrid set-top box manufactured by Motorola. The devices use digital cable technology to deliver linear TV channels and provides interactive services, like video-on-demand, over Internet Protocol connections. The line of set-tops is called QIP, to indicate the combination of quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) technology and IP.

Motorola spokeswoman Anya Chambers attributed the shortage of QIP boxes to “the huge success Verizon has had marketing its HD promotions which have been hugely successful… We're working with them to meet this uptick in demand.”

According to Chambers, Motorola currently is experiencing no issues filling orders for cable set-tops.

In a promotion that began last fall, Verizon is offering new triple-play subscribers -- who sign a two-year commitment for FiOS TV, Internet and phone service -- a 19-inch LCD HDTV set. The telco recently extended the offer through Feb. 16.

Asked how many FiOS TV subscribers have ordered HD service, Wilner said Verizon does not provide breakdowns of customers by services ordered.

Verizon president and chief operating officer Denny Strigl, on a call with Wall Street analysts last week, said “the impact of the free TV offer during the [fourth] quarter was really not material to our overall costs” but would not provide details on the promotion’s effectiveness.

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