Telephone giant Verizon on Thursday launched its much heralded fibre optic service (FiOS TV) in Keller, a small town near Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas.

The long-awaited move of telephone carriers into the lucrative preserve of cable and satellite operators could herald a competitive upheaval.

Verizon starts with one advantage over its rivals - value for money - although for how long is uncertain. It will offer 134 channels in its expanded basic tier for under $40 a month, according to the carrier's marketing material.

This compares with local cable operator Charter's 97 channels for about $48; EchoStar's 120 channels for $38; and DirecTV's 155 channels for $46.

Verizon plans to roll out the service to half a million homes in other communities in Texas, California, Florida and Virginia where franchise agreements are already in place - but the company remains coy about timing.

Media-watchers with elephantine memories recall a similar venture in the UK in the early 90s when telco BT carried out successful fibre optic TV trials before being barred from launching its service by the (then) Conservative administration.

The ten-year ban - which many observers believe was imposed to placate US TV and cable interests based in Britain - was ostensibly introduced to prevent BT, a virtual monopoly, from stifling competition.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff