Getting up to speed with IPTV


Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) has been gathering pace around the world for the past few years and is major competition to cable and satellite broadcasters.
As a satellite subscriber its something I seem to have largely overlooked and the recent IPTV World Forum prompted me to get up to speed on this emerging format of TV delivery and called for a day out at the show held in March at London’s Olympia.
Walking into this world was initially out of my comfort zone; sitting in on a few seminars presented me with a whole new vocabulary and a host of new abbreviations to understand. Although it is the major telcos (what we used to call Telecommunication company, such as BT) bidding in this arena the exhibitors ranged from IP security solutions to set-top box software providers.
IPTV shouldn’t be confused with Internet tv. Internet Television is open to us all from a wide range of ready to go formats such as Youtube to custom software enabling the creator to reach his target audience directly, quickly and with minimal financial outlay.
IPTV content is most likely to be provided by a telco, delivered via IP based secure channels to subscribing consumers and viewed by the supplied set top box. Subscribers can pick from thousands of hours of content and demanding it when they want it topping up for premium events and interacting via the IP network.
The ultimate goal for telcos is to provide the household with three key services; voice, data and vision with IPTV playing a big part of the “triple play” concept with players such as BT with few other options.
So how does it work…
IPTV is a video stream encoded by the telco as a series of IP packets and ultimately decoded on the home set top box which in turn is connected to your existing DSL line.
The IP packets to be distributed are dumped on their core network along with data and voice traffic to be received by local offices which have the job of adding content (regionalised advertising for example) and handling user requests. Telcos are ideally placed to provide an IPTV service as having control of the whole network from source to delivery ensures the quality the viewer will be expecting.
All content is distributed to the local office at the same time with the user then selecting a channel which the office authenticates and is then streamed to them in a variety of ways. Unlike cable or satellite where all channels are being sent all the time IPTV channels are only sent to the viewer on demand to preserve bandwidth. Simultaneous delivery of channels to enable features like picture in picture and arranging bandwidth to cope with the demands of HD and multiroom viewing are essential to keep IPTV competitive.
Some will argue that your home PC could handle this incoming data and then output to the family tv, technically yes but in practice how many homes have a Pc near the Tv and more importantly for the provider who want their box in your home with their operating software tempting you with the triple play package and ousting your current provider.
The set top box software will provide the viewer a greatly enriched experience compared with cable and satellite. With all three services in one box your tv becomes not only a video on demand experience but also a web browser and telephone information centre with caller ID alerts and new email arrivals being shown on your living room tv – perfect for couch potatoes!. Integration to the home PC network and thus enabling file sharing will be relatively straightforward with this technology and the number of channels you record simultaneously should not be restricted - as long as the bandwidth is there…
Like all broadcasters “content is king” and telcos like BT are bidding for premium content such as sports and movies as well as doing deals with the likes of Microsoft to deliver content through Xbox 360 consoles.
BT has already signed up 150,000 IPTV subscribers in addition to its 35% market share of broadband connectivity in the UK while France Telecom’s, “Orange TV”, has over a million subscribers.

Tags: iptv | Internet Protocol Television | iss019 | telco | N/A
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