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IPTV
IPTV

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Published by: api-3743192 on Oct 22, 2008
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05/09/2014

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IPTV: Technol ogy and
Development Predictions
Eckart Pech
President and CEO
Detecon, Inc.
Lars Bodenheimer
VP - Technology and Engineering
Detecon, Inc.
Patrick Pfeffer
Chief Network Architect
Detecon, Inc.
Introduction

Many have ventured to devise the ever-illusive killer application for the broadband networks that telcos and multiple-system operators (MSOs) are deploying around the world. Most efforts have failed, and predictions have been received with yawning. So far only bandwidth has appeared to be a good application, but it is not the \u201ckiller app.\u201d While more bandwidth is better, network operators cannot be reduced to broadband pipes. A value-added application with high average revenue per user (ARPU) is necessary to justify digging up the streets of Los Angeles, Hamburg, or Tokyo. By all accounts, this new application must be based on Internet protocol (IP), must give the end user total control, and must be of high entertainment value. IP television (IPTV) fits the bill. IPTV is not an application per se; it is a host of applications centered on IP, user choice, and rich content.

Most telecom broadband network operators are planning to offer IPTV. While IPTV is at different stages of product definition, field trials, or early deployments, it is becoming apparent that it is poised to become the framework of incremental revenues for fiber-to-the-x (FTTx, where x stands for curb, node, premises, etc.) deployments. In addition to the quest for better ARPU, rapid progress in IPTV is fueled by the competition between telcos, MSOs, and new network operator entrants (municipalities, loop reseller, etc.) for the largest share, if not the totality, of the home entertainment wallet of consumers.

This paper analyzes the current technical landscape of IPTV vendors and assesses how their solutions influence the network. IPTV had several false starts during the past decade. The video server technology was immature, the bandwidth available on access network was inadequate, and the cost of CPE was too high. We consider that those barriers are now only hurdles that can be avoided if negotiated with care. We hope that this paper will present some hope for a new beginning at telcos around the world. Building an IPTV network is within range of the telcos\u2019 technical ability, but it requires a dramatic change of culture.

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The goal of this paper is to shed some light on the meanderings of the IPTV route.
Key Findings and Opinion Statements
Regional Bell operating companies\u2019 (RBOCs\u2019) last chance: The RBOCs are experiencing an

erosion of their access line and voice revenue. It has been compensated by the DSL growth and, for BellSouth, SBC and Verizon, the health of their cellular properties. However, as MSOs finally deploy VoIP, they become triple-play providers. The RBOCs must add video to their voice and data offering. It is a pivotal moment for the RBOCs; they have no choice but to succeed. The RBOCs already tried video service in the mid-\u201990s; they failed miserably and at great expense. This time around, anything other than complete success will spell their demise.

Renewed capital expenditures (CAPEX): The current asymmetric digital subscriber line

(ADSL) network cannot support IPTV. It must be overhauled. Trenches have to be dug, fiber/copper have to be installed, and new outside electronic equipment\u2014new routers, a new OSS/BSS, a video head end, a video server, a set-top box (STB) or set-top terminal (STT)\u2014have to be purchased. This heavy investment should allow the telecom equipment manufacturers that have survived the nuclear telecom winter to enjoy some springlike weather. It will also lead to further concentration in the industry.

IPTV\u2014Microsoft\u2019s Trojan horse for the living room?: Microsoft has won major IPTV deals,

making its MSTV middleware solution the de facto reference. After dominating the office desktop, it is clear that Microsoft is positioning itself to dominate the living room. Microsoft is offering one-stop shopping for acquisition server, delivery server, video server, and digital rights management; but at its core, it is an operating system company. It will integrate features into the operating system of the STB or STT as it sees fit and will most likely exit peripheral businesses (video server for example).

Small is beautiful: There are many successful deployments of IPTV across the world. Most of
them are by small or medium-size operators. Large operators are struggling.
Five facts about middleware: 1. More than 50 percent of the effort to develop and integrate

middleware with the rest of the system is spent on the STB. 2. Middleware scales well, and supporting hardware is not a cost factor. 3. Middleware database is small by today\u2019s database standard. 4. Scripting language in the STB is too slow. Java is better, but embedded C/C++ offers the best performance. 5. A middleware client program has a small object footprint (below 32 MB).

The last 100 meters: Telcos have a good understanding of the core/metro network and the
outside loop. The challenges of the last 100 meters remain. Most IPTV providers confess that it
still takes an average of four hours to set up a customer (including network access termination). A
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solution must be found. This solution will vary from continent to continent because of different
building codes.
The last 10 centimeters: The STB presents major deployment/integration issues and creates

CAPEX and operational expenditures (OPEX). 1. More than 50 percent of integration dollars are spent on STB integration with the rest of the system. 2. The STB is a difficult device to debug\u2014it has no output port, lacks VT100 display, and has limited amount of memory. (3) STB cost for early deployments will be more than $100 for an entry-level model. 4. The remote management of the STB is a thorny issue. It will require, among other things, the training of telephone support staff.

VoD\u2014The future of television?: Video on demand (VoD) might be the killer app. Video is not

restricted to movies; it also includes TV programs recorded automatically or by the user with a network personal video recorder (NPVR). It offers the flexibility of the Internet with the entertainment value of cable TV.

VoD\u2014The end of the network?: If VoD becomes a prevalent form of TV viewing, this means

that the current network that telcos are building to support IPTV will not have enough bandwidth; most of the video streams will be unicast, thereby consuming more aggregation and core resources than are currently set aside for a mostly multicast model.

IPTV needs standards: There are too many discrete elements in an IPTV system. An integrated
solution such as Microsoft is an option, but clear standardized interfaces between the elements
would benefit the industry in the long run.
Business users are high-value customers: Telcos are focused on the residential market. It is

important that the new network supports residential and business users. The business community fears that IPTV might disrupt the stringent service-level agreement (SLA) it relies on. It is paramount that telcos address those concerns. If they are not addressed, a new breed of business- centric Internet service providers (ISPs) will provide data services, along with VoIP and video over IP, to the business community, depriving telcos of a stable and high-profit customer base.

IPTV Architecture
IPTV Definition

IPTV is a transmission and control technique to deliver broadcast and VoD video streams to an STB. The use of IP as a video delivery mechanism is omnipotent. What is novel is the use of pure IP signaling to change channels and control other functions. This dogmatic definition of IPTV implies the use of a point-to-point networking infrastructure that supports broadcast video using multicasting techniques. The FiOS project at Verizon is, therefore, not an IPTV implementation.

The access network is still a bottleneck, and telcos have two options1 to address the twisted-pair (TP) engorgement: either improve the copper infrastructure or abandon the TP for fiber-to-the- home. Most telcos, with the exception of Verizon and NTT, have decided to keep the copper infrastructure for the last few hundred feet, with fiber-to-the-home being only considered for new builds. Verizon, on the other hand, has engaged in an aggressive fiber-to-the-premises overlay network and plans to retire all TPs. The FiOS architecture shares many similarities with a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) system with a passive optical network (PON) instead of a coax cable.

1 See \u201cFiber Diet for Triple Play Course: A Healthy Habit,\u201d Patrick Pfeffer, Detecon, 2005.

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