IPTV, an acronym for Internet Protocol Television, is a system which delivers digital television to subscribers over the internet, or more specifically, over the broadband. Thus, it is different from the conventional delivery methods, wherein the TV service is delivered through radio waves, satellite signals or cable.
IPTV service, just like your everyday television service, has all the necessary ingredients – it can show live events, recorded programming or on-demand programs/movies (as in DTH services). In addition, it can provide features like games and pause & play of live TV, features which are not available on normal TV broadcasts. IPTV is delivered to your home in pretty much the same way broadband internet is delivered – via a cable. the service providers for IPTV services are also mostly the existing telecom service providers. For example, in India, the service is provided by telecom carriers such as BSNL, MTNL, Airtel and Reliance Telecom.
IPTV vs Internet TV
IPTV is frequently confused with internet TV for obvious reasons, though the two broadcast are quite different in nature. While IPTV is mostly provided by the telecom companies over dedicated networks, the internet TV broadcasters use the existing internet framework to deliver the service. Secondly, while internet TV is frequently viewed on the PC of the end user, IPTV is viewed on the conventional TV screens, though it can also be played on the PC, and even 3G enabled mobile phones. Thirdly, the quality of service in case of IPTV is vastly superior, and can be closely monitored by the broadcaster, in contrast to internet TV. Moreover, the IPTV broadcast needs a set top box to deliver the service at the user end.
More Facts About IPTV
- Though IPTV can be offered over any internet connection, the high bandwidth requirements of digital TV broadcast dictate the use of broadband for IPTV broadcasting.
- IPTV broadcast can be done in two ways – free or fee based. A number of TV broadcasting companies are already offering their content on the internet.
- IPTV provides access to may interactive features such as games and participative programs.
- The feed at the user end can be customized as per customer preferences, simply by using the set to boxes. The customers can request movies or other programs of their choices.
- Local content can be easily inserted and broadcast as part of the regular programming.
Future of IPTV – Opportunities and Challenges
IPTV has been around since the mid 1990s, though it has started achieving a measure of popularity and increase in subscriber base only after 2000. By 2005, the number of subscribers had started growing exponentially, and IPT services were gradually launched in a number of countries, including India. Indeed, India is expected to be one of the leading countries, where the subscriber base of IPTV services is set to increase very fast. That said, the number of regions and countries where IPTV services are offered are still miniscule. The IPTV services are available in the USA, Western Europe, China, India, Japan, Pakistan and South Korea. This is due to a simple fact – the low penetration of internet in the first place.
The IPTV is heavily dependant on broadband for its successful broadcast, and therefore, the success and proliferation of IPTV in the future will be closely connected to the fortunes of broadband access. It is estimated that the total number of broadband subscribers in the world would reach a level of around 400 million in 2010.
One of the biggest issues that is likely to confront spread of IPTV is the issue of last mile connectivity, even in the so-called broadband networks. The last mile connectivity is still provided over copper cables, mostly due to cost considerations (since the alternative, optical fiber cables, are prohibitively expensive), thus limiting the bandwidth accessible to the end user. It is estimated that a viable, multi-channel IPTV broadcast will need bandwidths of about 20Mbps! This makes it inaccessible to huge chunks of population, even internet users. It is expected that new developments such as ‘IPTV over Satellite’ will help to get around this obstacle.