Verizon wants to take internet users to the next level the Fios Gigabit Connection. The service, which launched in April, provides download speeds up to 940 Mbps (megabits per second) and uploads up to 880 Mbps and is available in select parts of the Northeast United States, from the Boston, Massachusetts to the Richmond, Virginia areas including New York City and Philadelphia.
To demonstrate the power of gigabit speeds, Verizon built the Fios Connected Home inside of its New York headquarters, which is a mock apartment space filled with smart devices. Yet, even with this impressive demonstration, there is one issue with marketing the service: average users don’t require this kind of speed. However, Verizon quickly discovered that there is one type of user that can’t get enough speed, and that’s gamers—particularly esports competitors. That realization led to a shift from strictly marketing the service to the general public to putting an increased focus on the gaming community.
Speaking with AListDaily, Ray McConville, a Verizon spokesperson representing the consumer business unit for Fios, recounted how Fios became involved with gaming.
“It started at the beginning of this year, when we came out with a new flagship internet product called Instant Internet, which we’ve upgraded to be called Fios Gigabit Connection, which offers near gigabit per second speeds in both directions,” McConville explained. “We were trying to figure out how to best position the use case for something like this—but honestly, if you’re just using the internet in normal ways such as browsing the web, checking email and streaming video as a single user, it’s not going feel all that different from a 50 Mbps connection. A lot of web applications don’t require speeds like that.
“We had been positioning the use case as people having an explosion of connected devices in their homes, and when they use them all at once, they add up and put a big strain on the home network—that’s why we’re coming out with super-fast speeds. But one of the exceptions to that rule is the gaming community. That is a prime example of a singular application where you can never give the end user enough speed. That little bit of difference in lag can make the difference between winning and losing in online gaming competitions.”
McConville then went into detail about why gamers are the perfect audience. “Gamers—even if they are the only ones using that internet connection—can never get enough speed,” he said. “They have a very high demand for it, and it’s a very knowledgeable group of people. They’re very passionate, and if you can reach them, they’ll advocate on behalf of you. We got into this as a means of reaching a vocal community that has a strong demand for a service like this.”
Verizon is just getting started with its video game and esports-related marketing, and it is still exploring opportunities. One of its biggest activations so far was for the launch of Halo Wars 2, done in partnership with Microsoft and professional esports player Arturo Sanchez. At the time, the service was still called Instant Internet and featured a 750 Mbps connection, but it could achieve near gigabit speeds.
“We hosted a group of professional gamers at our demo center in lower Manhattan, and the night before, we did an instant drop where we gave away 750 free digital downloads of the game,” said McConville, describing the event. “Five or six of those winners got to square-off against the pros, who were also trying out the game for the first time. There was a big social media play and it was all streamed live over Twitch. It took place on a Friday night, and even though Fridays aren’t always the best nights, it was successful because Fios was the number one trending topic on Twitter in New York City that night.”
Sanchez and his viewers were impressed by the speed, and the activation was so successful that the gamer was invited back to the Fios Connected Home demo center to host more livestreaming events, including a two-hour training session in preparation for DreamHack Austin.
Verizon connected with Sanchez through Twitter, as he was one of the first people to respond when Fios Instant Internet launched. He hosts local New York esports competitions every Wednesday, sometimes collaborating with other brands and influencers, and needs the fast bandwidth for these livestreamed events. However, the gigabit service hadn’t launched yet, so Verizon invited Sanchez to the Connected Home to try the service out and that’s how the relationship began.
While Verizon considers the possibly of expanding its relationships, the company will likely seek out more opportunities to reach gamers and partner with esports players using the Fios Connected Home. The Connected Home was built to showcase the ideal smart home using a multitude of connected devices, since (outside of gaming) there is no singular application that requires gigabit speeds. Features include a doorbell, security camera and front porch lights that are all connected to a smartphone. Inside, there are six 4K televisions simultaneously streaming different content from multiple services, along with about a dozen Philips Hue lights that can all be controlled via smartphone or Google Home. In addition to multiple tablets, a smart fridge and even a connected coffee pot, there is a desktop computer and two Xbox One gaming consoles hooked into the internet. McConville emphasized how by themselves, these devices don’t take up much bandwidth, but they all add up to a massive drain on the household’s internet bandwidth.
The Connected Home demonstrates how the Gigabit Connection might benefit real world use, allowing people to see why speed matters. McConville stated that competing ISPs have demonstrated speed in nonsensical ways such as downloading X number of photos a second. “Why is that exciting, and does it even happen that way?” McConville asked rhetorically. “In the real world, there are multiple speed bumps before that content reaches your network. That’s why we never positioned this as, ‘You can do this in X amount of time.’ Those are all theoretical, perfect world scenarios. What’s meaningful to customers is when they see all these connected devices.”
Although McConville admits that the Connected Home might be a bit over-the-top with all its devices, people who have toured the space have responded well, as many had about twenty devices hooked up to their networks. “When they saw how everything worked at the same time, compared to what they were used to at home, they were impressed,” said McConville.
Verizon is still making plans for how it will make further use of the Fios Connected Home and how it will continue promoting the Gigabit Connection service, but gaming (specifically, esports) could be a big part of it. “It’s a natural fit for us to be involved in the esports space, given how it’s one of those areas where—as they say—latency kills,” said McConville. “It makes a huge difference between winning and losing. Esports is a fast-growing space, a very social space that’s active online, and we think it makes a lot of sense for us to be involved with it. We feel that we offer the best internet service there is, and we have a very natural tie-in with the esports community.”