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Many attempts have been made to devise a ‘killer application’ for the broadband network. Over the last decade, the ascent in the popularity of satellite service, the growth in digital cable and the emergence of HDTV have all left their marks on the TV scenario, but none were considered adequate enough to fit the bill of a’ killer application’. A value added application with high average revenue per user seemed to be the necessity of the hour, and it was essential for this new application to be based on Internet protocol (IP) to give the end user full control and high entertainment value. IP television (IPTV),to a large extent, fits the bill for this kind of application as it represents a host of applications centred on IP, user choice and rich content.
What is IPTV?
IPTV delivers television programming to households via a broadband connection, using internet protocols. Since it is in digital format, all analogue TVs require an IPTV set top box (STB).IPTV is clubbed with other services like video on demand (VOD),voice-over IP (VOIP) or digital
phone and web access, collectively referred to as triple play. Triple play implies high-speed internet and television/telephone service over a single broadband connection. With wireless it is called quadruple play and grouped services(triple and quadruple)are called multi-play. Accordingly, IPTV comprises TV services provided over network, controlled by service operators such as telecom, cable or Internet service providers.
How it works?
Although IPTV is on Internet protocol, it is a service on TV and hence, does not require any computer or Internet bandwidth. It is different from the conventional analogue TV. IPTV runs through a telephone line and an STB. It is a real time interactive medium by which a user request can be processed in real time. This feature allows users to watch different programmes depending on their choices and time availability. IPTV is also a multicast and unicast platform, through which viewers can choose from hundreds of channels. They can also demand for channels of their choice in IPTV, whereas cable TV and satellite TV are only broadcast modes, wherein viewers can see only what is being broadcast.This distinct differentiation makes IPTV unique and desirable. IPTV requires a broadband connection , an STB for access and subscriber identity to secure content.It can be viewed on a normal TV or PC. However with IPTV ,one question comes up frequently:Where does the STB receive its pictures from? Most video content enters the system at the telco’s national head-end, where network feeds are pulled from satellites and encoded if necessary. The video stream is broken up into IP packets and put into the telco’s core network,which is a massive IP network tht handles all sorts of traffic (data, voice etc), in addition to the video. The video streams are received by a local office, where local content (such as TV stations, advertising and VODs) is appended to the mix. It’s also the spot where the IPTV middleware is housed. This software stack handles user authentication, channel change requests, billing, and VOD requests. When a user changes the channel on his STB, the box does not tune a channel like a cable system. It switches channels by using the IP group membership protocol (IGMP) v2 to join
a new multicast group. When the local office receives this request, it checks to make sure that the user is authorised to view the new channel, then directs the routers in the local office to add that particular user to the channel’s distribution index. In this way only signals that are currently being watched are actually being sent from the local office to the digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM) and finally to the user.
Building Blocks of IPTV
Major functional components of the IPTV architecture:
Content Sources - It receives video content from producers, and other sources, encodes
the content and, for VoD, stores content in an acquisition database.
Service Nodes - It receives video streams in various formats, then reformats and
encapsulates them for transmission with appropriate Quality of Service (QoS). Service Nodes also communicate with the Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) for service management.
Wide Area Distribution Networks - This is the core and access network that provides
the distribution of IPTV data streams from the Service Nodes to the Customer Premises. The Networks include the backbone network and access equipments. For telecom operators, the Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers (DSLAMs) is often used as the access equipment, while for cable operators hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) is used.
Customer Access Links - These are the existing loop plant and the phone lines to homes
using the higher-speed DSL technologies such as ADSL2+ and VDSL. For cable subscribers, DOCSIS is used. Service providers may also use a combination of Fiber-to-the Curb (FTTC) and DSL technologies or implement direct Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) access depending on the richness of their IPTV service offerings.
Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) - The CPE device provides the broadband
network termination (B-NT) functionality at a minimum, and may include other integrated functions such as routing gateway, set-top box and home networking capabilities.
IPTV Client - The IPTV Client is a device, such as a set-top box, that terminates the
IPTV traffic at the customer premises. It performs the functional processing such as setting up the connection and QoS with the Service Node, decoding the video streams, channel change
functionality, user display control, and connections to standard-definition TV or HDTV monitors.
Difference between IPTV & Internet TV
There is very little difference between IPTV and Internet TV. IPTV refers to a closed and proprietary TV system. It is somewhat akin to today’s cable TV. The control of IPTV is sent over secure IP channels, which can be controlled. Internet TV on the other hand, is an open and evolving framework, to which small and medium-sized video producers contribute. One can select from a list of content that is available. it is an open setup and anyone having an internet connection can access the data.
Advantages of IPTV
IPTV is a truly interactive service and can provide numerous services like ecommerce, e-governance, e-education, e-medicine, weather and infotainment, etc. The major advantages are :
• Interactive nature
One of the best advantages of IPTV is that it uses internet protocol to provide twoway communication, making the television viewing experience truly interactive. It opens the door to real-time participation from viewers. Through this technology, viewers not only receives data but can also send data back. For example , e-mailing, instant messaging, ticket booking, eshopping and participation in live votes are all possible through IPTV.
• Triple play service
IPTV provides triple play service, which allows TV broadcasting, high-speed Internet connection and telephony on one platform.
• TV viewing at convenience
IPTV gives viewers freedom from time-bound TV schedules. Viewers can now go back to watch any live broadcast they may have missed. Unlike DTH or cable TV, with IPTV, viewers don’t need to give commands whenever they need to save their favorite programmes, since this burden now falls upon the service provider. Viewers also don’t need to invest in expensive STBs with recording capabilities as the programmes are already saved on the servers of the service providers.
• On-demand content
IPTV enables user-specific content delivery. A user can access content of any nature through this platform. For instance, IPTV offers VOD, which enables viewers to choose any video from a vast library and view it instantly. Similarly viewers can listen to their favorite music, using the music on demand service. Viewers can even pause, rewind and forward these videos at their convenience. Another example of on-demand content is education. IPTV has the capability to provide one-on-one tutoring to students through television.
• On-demand advertising
This technology multiplies opportunities for advertisers as unlike other applications, wherein a viewer sees an advertisement and then goes to the store to find out more about the item or purchase it. Through IPTV, a viewer has the facility to check out detailed information about the product instantly and, to a large extent, can also make the purchase there and then. This platform will therefore increase the rate of impulse buying. IPTV has the technology to track the real viewership of an advertisement. Video calling too, can be facilitated on an IPTV connection. Viewers can watch callers on their TV screens and also watch programmes at the same time.
• Internet penetration
In a country like India, Internet usage is still very low. The fact that IPTV allows broad-cast channels and internet on one platform is a sure way of boosting Internet usage in the country.
Hybrid IPTV refers to the combination of traditional broadcast TV services and video delivered over either managed IP networks or the public Internet. It is an increasing trend in both the consumer and pay TV [operator] markets. Hybrid IPTV Set-Top Boxes included both a traditional broadcast tuner and an Internet connection – usually an Ethernet port. The first com A hybrid set-top allows content from a
range of sources, including terrestrial broadcast, satellite, and cable to be brought together with video delivered over the Internet via an Ethernet connection on the device. This enables television viewers to access a greater variety of content on their TV sets, without the need for a separate box for each service. Hybrid IPTV Set-Top Boxes also enable consumers to access a range of advanced interactive services, such as VOD and catch-up TV, as well as Internet applications, including video telephony, surveillance, gaming, shopping, e-government accessed via a television set.
IPTV vs DTH, digital/cable TV
Uninterrupted Signal : This is first and foremost need for television viewing. Every system is useless if we do not have continuous signal available. The signal availability depends on the medium of broadcast. Generally, the least signal interruption occurs in case of Satellite TV as the signal is received directly from the Satellite to the viewer’s home. Where as in case of Cable TV, the intermediate area operators’ set up faults or failures can cause disruption in signals which is quite possible given the power supply scenario is most parts of India. IP TV network also suffers due to ongoing construction works in the neighborhoods resulting in coaxial cable disruptions and thus, switching off the whole Triple Play Network. But in case of Satellite TV signal, nature plays an important role. Signal outage occurs in case of DTH due to heavy rains, storms etc. So, If you live in an area prone to heavy rainfalls or storms, Satellite TV is not for you. Customer Service: One major deciding factor should be the customer service provided by the broadcaster. As we need to use different services, easy access to these services is a must. STB Software reliability: As everyone is aware, all the receivers (STBs) work using a software, this software needs to be reliable. Make sure that you have done enough review of a product before subscribing to it. Signal Quality: As the three broadcast mediums are different, Signal quality also might vary. Although, the quality of audio/video does not differ drastically, but still the noise can get added to Cable and IP TV broadcast mediums in particular areas making signals problematic. Network Infrastructure: As I mentioned earlier, this is most important consideration for IP TV requirements. Technically, IP TV requires a huge bandwidth to make TV viewing experience seamless which is still a deterrent in India. This will deteriorate more once the HDTV channels come into focus. Although broadcasters are claiming to offer high speed internet services, it is still seen that required speed is not available in most parts of India. Services Offered: All the three broadcast mediums being different, the services offered by the broadcasters vary very widely. IP TV is much more suitable to the needs if you require Video on
Demand much frequently. Also, Electronic Program Guides (EPGs) flexibilities and accuracy should be a consideration. Cost: In the end, cost will definitely be a deciding factor. All the three different mediums cause the cost to vary to extremes. Cable TV is still the cheapest option as the existing network infrastructure is being used to deliver the signals. Satellite TV costs are higher due to installation and packaging of channels varying with each service provider. IP TV seems to be cost effective only if “Triple Play” services to be used. In a nutshell, the digital television industry is in its nascent stage in India with IP TV just being born. It takes a lot of infrastructure support to provide seamless digital and interactive television experience. Digital Cable TV and DTH have stabilized over a period of time. It will take some more time for IP TV in the coming years to prove its edge over the other two mediums. The Digital Television broadcasting technology is still evolving and it will get complex with the advent of Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) and High Definition content.
IPTV is sensitive to packet loss and delays if the streamed data is unreliable. IPTV has strict minimum speed requirements in order to facilitate the right number of frames per second to deliver moving pictures. This means that the limited connection speed/bandwidth available for a large IPTV customer base can reduce the service quality delivered. Although a few countries have very high speed broadband-enabled populations, such as South Korea with 6 million homes benefiting from a minimum connection speed of 100Mbit/s, in other countries (such as the UK) legacy networks struggle to provide 3-5 Mbit/s and so simultaneous provision to the home of TV channels, VOIP and Internet access may not be viable. The last mile delivery for IPTV usually has a bandwidth restriction that only allows a small number of simultaneous TV channel streams – typically from one to three – to be delivered. Streaming IPTV across wireless links within the home has proved troublesome; not due to bandwidth limitations as many assume, but due to issues with multipath and reflections of the RF signal carrying the IP data packets. An IPTV stream is sensitive to packets arriving at the right time and in the right order. Improvements in wireless technology are now starting to provide equipment to solve the problem. Due to the limitations of wireless, most IPTV service providers today use wired home networking technologies instead of wireless technologies like 802.11. Service Providers such as AT&T (which makes extensive use of wireline home networking as part of its U-Verse IPTV service) have expressed support for the work done in this direction by ITU-T, which has adopted Recommendation G.hn (also known as G.9960), which is a next generation home networking standard that specifies a common PHY/MAC that can operate over any home wiring (power lines, phone lines or coaxial cables).
Conclusion: Technology of the future
IPTV is a technology of the future and is gradually taking off in India. The IPTV forum has set a target of acquiring 1 million subscribers by 2012. The compelling factors, which will attract consumers will be IPTV’s interactive features and value-added services. Delivering entertainment content over broadband networks will empower users to view their content at times pre-set by them. IPTV will also serve as a stimulator for the growth of broadband in the country as it will generate the demand for increased broadband capacity and networks. IPTV will be more relevant for computer illiterate people in rural and urban area. The level of interactivity provided by IPTV will facilitate better video communication and minimize the need for computer literacy, thereby bridging the digital divide.
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Electronics for you www.wikipedia.org www.howstuffworks.com
• Infokairali computer magazine
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