Introduction to IPTV
In order to explain what is IPTV, it is necessary to understand its features and the underlying technology used. This IPTV tutorial therefore touches on all these aspects of IPTV.
IPTV is part of telecommunication marketing term “quadruple play” which consists of internet, Phone, wireless and TV. The TV service in quadruple play could be provided by IPTV. IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television. This technology delivers high quality broadcast television as well as on-demand audio and video content.
IPTV content is generally delivered over a private network but can also be delivered on a secure internet connection. The content includes traditional TV channels but can support interactive TV which can provide following added functionality:
Allows Single and multiplayer games.
Time shifting of programs service
This mechanism allows storing content for viewing later. The content can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded by the IPTV subscribers. This provides excellent service to consumers who are used to Tivo service.
Personalization of content services
With is functionality the user decides what to watch and when to watch. Users do not have to follow the TV channel schedules. This service allows consumers to make their own schedules.
Channel selection services
With this service only requested channels are streamed by the service provider thus saving on the bandwidth.
Multi Tasking service
With this service users can watch multiple channels via features like Picture in Picture or maybe watch a channel along with browsing internet.
Integration with other services
One biggest advantage of IPTV is integration with other telecommunication services like caller id. It allows users to view calling number on the TV screens before answering the call. Users could also get notifications for emails or instant messages on their TV sets.
IPTV is sometimes confused with Internet TV. IPTV unlike internet TV uses private networks (owned by telecom service providers) to deliver services to manage quality of service.
IPTV Technology and Architecture
To understand IPTV technology and architecture, we need to take a look at its infrastructure. The IPTV infrastructure consists of :
The data center receives content from a variety of sources (for example the content providers like news channels) and prepares the video content for delivery. The delivery is done over an IP based network. The data center also manages profiles and payments for all the IPTV subscribers.
Delivery network is used to deliver IPTV content to the users. This network could be a hybrid fiber and coaxial based cable TV infrastructure or a fiber based telecommunication network. Following is a list of various IPTV delivery network infrastructures used :
Depending on the investments done by the communications service providers, an IPTV network could have following infrastructure (Listed in order of closeness to the end user). All these networks use fiber networks.
- Fiber to the regional office (FTTRO)
- Fiber to the neighborhood (FTTN)
- Fiber to the curb (FTTC)
- Fiber to the home(FTTH)
- Fiber to the apartment (FTTA)
Since many users have already got telephone lines installed, reusing the telephone infrastructure reduces time to market. Therefore telcos have started to provide IPTV via ADSL, ADSL2+, and VDSL. This mechanism also helps to meet high bandwidth requirements for an IPTV service while keeping costs down.
Cable TV network
This involves IPTV transmission by the cable companies that operate today. It provides a viable and low cost delivery mechanism for cable companies as they do not need to spend extra on separate networks.
Satellite based network
These provide higher bandwidth than other terrestrial transmission networks and are starting to get used for IP based services.
Fixed and wireless broadband connection
With the growth of mobile devices and smart phones more and more users are demanding content for these devices. IPTV can serve these devices with the use of technologies such as Wimax and LTE which can provide higher bandwidth needed for streaming media in a wireless mode. Netflix for example can stream content from their servers to mobile phones seamlessly
Historically internet has been slow and patchy and not able to provide streaming content without significant buffering. But with latest data compression technologies and higher broadband speeds consumers are able to get better experiences via this channel of communication also. This allows IPTV content to be easily streamed and downloaded (also if needed shared via peer to peer sharing applications).
IPTV Consumer Devices (IPTVCD)
IPTVCDs connect to the broadband network to provide access to the IPTV content. They are responsible for decoding and processing the incoming IP based video stream. For example these include the set top boxes, gaming consoles, media servers, are IPTVCD. Some of the well known brands include Apple TV, Google TV, Roku, Boxee Box etc.
Home network is the part of network that is within the home boundaries. This includes the inter networking of the devices in the house. Technologies used here include :
Fast and Gigabit Ethernet (GigE)
This network can transmit data at rates up to 1 Gbps. This amount of bandwidth is good for services such as the transmission of multiple HDTV channels to multiple devices in the house.
Wireless LAN (802.11N)
This network primarily helps in transmission of data between devices wirelessly. This technology is excellent for portable devices that can be moved or transferred between multiple rooms in he house.
Allows transmission of content such as High Definition and Standard Definition digital video channels, voice over IP etc over standard home power cables. This IPTV technology can be very helpful in reducing extra wires in the house.
Universal Powerline Association-Digital Home Standard (UPA-DHS)
This IPTV specification includes all the necessary features required for high-speed audio/video distribution inside the home using powerline wiring infrastructure. This technology is again quite helpful in reducing extra wires in the house.
This technology involves using the preexisting home telephone and coaxial wiring to distribute computer and entertainment data throughout a house.
Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA)
This technology promotes use of existing coaxial cable in the home to connect various devices to IPTV network.
IPTV Service Providers and Companies
AT&T: U-Verse TV offers hundreds of channels including majors channels like HBO. Features include DVR, Video On Demand. Custom packages are available and High Definition service would cost more.
Verizon: FiOS TV offers slightly less channels when compared to AT&T but includes all the majors channels including international channels. Features include Video On Demand, High Definition Audio and Video and Multi-Room DVR (control and watch DVR programs from multiple rooms).