Verizon FiOS customers now have the option of increasing their Internet speed. The telecommunications giant has begun offering what it says is the fastest mass-market broadband service in the U.S.

The company has begun to roll out the ultra-high-speed service to the majority of the more than 12.5 million homes where FiOS is available, and will make the service available to Verizon FiOS small-business customers by the end of the year.

Verizon said its new Internet service provides three times the downloading speed previously available to FiOS customers.

"By offering the fastest mass-market Internet service in the nation, we're supporting the immediate and future speed needs of bandwidth-hungry consumers," said Eric Bruno, Verizon vice president of product management. "The new 150/35 Mbps FiOS Internet offer establishes a new benchmark for high-speed Internet in America, and paves the way for a flurry of emerging bandwidth-intensive applications to reach mainstream status."

The difference

How will consumers see the difference? Verizon says a downstream speed of 150 Mbps means consumers can download a two-hour, standard-definition movie (1.5 gigabytes) in less than 80 seconds, and a two-hour HD movie (5 GB) in less than four and a half minutes.

Downloading 20 high-resolution photographs (100 megabytes) would take less than five and a half seconds using the 150/35 Mbps service.  With the 35 Mbps upstream speed, consumers can upload those same 20 high-resolution photos in less than 23 seconds.

If you need that kind of speed, you'll pay a premium for it. Verizon says the 150/35 Mbps residential offer will be available to the majority of FiOS-eligible households, and sold as a stand-alone service starting at $194.99 a month when purchased with a one-year service agreement and Verizon wireline voice service.

Verizon will continue to offer on a stand-alone basis its next-fastest FiOS Internet speed of 50/20 Mbps, as well as its 25/25 and 15/5 speed tiers.  FiOS Internet speeds of 35/35 Mbps, 25/25 Mbps and 15/5 Mbps will continue to be available in bundled packages.

Bruno said the 150/35 Mbps tier takes advantage of Verizon's all-fiber-optic network, and will ultimately serve 18 million households. 

"Our new 150/35 Mbps offer will also support burgeoning bandwidth-intensive applications such as Internet video to TV and PC, 3D TV and movie downloads, high-definition and real-time video conferencing, and online data backup," said Bruno.