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Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)


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Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)

  1. 1. Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Pavel Kolev Aleksandar Bikov Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics 2008
  2. 2. We have already been accustomed to TV being delivered via cable and accessing over 100 channels simultaneously. Over the last years, the development of satellite services, the increased use of digital TV and the birth of HDTV have left their mark on the television landscape. Now, a new delivery method is shaking things up even more powerfully. It’s called Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Even though, in past this technology has been widely restricted by the lack of high speed bandwidth, currently residential IPTV is expected to grow at rapid rates, because broadband is becoming more common and affordable. Introduction The key idea is to deliver to the end user a brand new high quality video stream with guaranteed quality over the Internet. That looks like a rather simple thing, though it's much more difficult than it seems. Despite the fact, that the IPTV uses IP protocol, it is far away from the concept of widely accessible public internet, because the supplier’s main responsibility is to preserve the control over the transmission and to keep the client’s IP address private and secured from third party. In other words, IPTV requires a centralized and well secured private network with high bandwidth. It should be emphasized that there is a substantial differences between ordinary Internet TV broadcasted to the wide audience and IPTV. The first provides unsecured, public and without any guarantee of quality video stream. On the other hand, IPTV is much more like the conventional cable or satellite TV. It provides services only to the members of the private network and guarantees the quality of the transmitted signal. Nevertheless, IPTV differs a lot from both alternatives mentioned above: a. It adopts the IP protocol. b. Its infrastructure is based on fiber optic connections, in other words it possesses a few orders of magnitude higher bandwidth. c. The organization of the internal network traffic is highly prioritized, so as to be guaranteed the high quality of video stream and of course for security reasons as well. Before diving into details about IPTV, it’s worth mentioning who are the major players in this rapidly developing field of the next generation television. The most obvious and undoubtfully prudent question is who could afford to develop, tested and actually deploy such huge breakthrough for millions of end users? Well, it can only be someone with obscenely high financial statement and with substantial influence. At this point the list of plausible candidates is reduced to the largest international telecommunication companies. All major telecommunication companies, starting with the largest AT&T, long ago have conducted the necessary research projects and have developed the required technology, which would enable them to provide IPTV to the end user. It is a fact that even the old telephone lines, such as ASDL and its successors ASDL+, could be used to deliver partial IPTV service. For some states in USA, AT&T has already been delivering IPTV over broadband connection. However, in order to experience the fully fledged service of IPTV a connection with much bigger bandwidth is needed. Therefore, a brand new network should be created and deployed, but such enormous investment could only be afforded by a giant corporation.
  3. 3. Evolution and technical information The first time IPTV appeared dates back to 1994 with the popularization of internet. The first television show broadcasted over the Internet was ABC's „World news“. Back then, the technology wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now and most people probably hadn’t even understood that they were actually watching IPTV. Now, we are having many different types of IPTV, from video highlights on web sites, to IPTV on your cell phone. IPTV has really taken off and is still on a steep rise. The way IPTV works is very similar to how standard cable television does. Fisrt the frame of the video is divided into small pieces. It then goes through miles of cable to your house, then your cable box puts everything in order and displays the content onto your TV. IPTV is pretty similar, except it will run through your Internet connection instead of your cable connection. The difficult part comes whith the local hub. All the packets must be well organized and send in the right time be put together on your TV as a picture. Once you put IPTV packets onto the network, they are competing with millions of other packets going through at the same time. People surf the Internet, download movies, stream video, they use VoIP connections and the list goes on. Because IPTV needs real-time data transmission and uses the Internet Protocol, it is sensitive to packet loss and delays if the streamed data is unreliable. If the IPTV connection is not good enough, picture may be broken-up or lost. This problem is proven to be particularly cumbersome, while attempting to stream IPTV across wireless links. Improvements in wireless technology are needed, in order to provide adequate equipment capable of solving that problem. Currently, on the market there are few whole solutions for IPTV. One of them is Microsoft’s “Media Center”. The main concept of this product is to have a Home Server, constantly turned on, which will be used as central hub. It will manage video, music and picture files, while providing friendly GUI to end user. Unfortunately, streaming in real-time high definition video over any network requires a substantial improvement over the speed with which the packets are sent. Take for instance a SDTV video which requires approximately 2-3MB per sec and its successor HDTV requiring only ~ 20 MB per sec. This means that in order to replace one SDTV channel with HDTV we would need 10 times higher speed. So far, the only option, even though it is very expensive, turns out to be the fiber optic wires. That’s the reason why the biggest telecommunication companies, around the world, have already initiated a 5 to 6 years plan to develop, deploy and put into exploitation the required infrastructure. It worth mentioning that AT&T has already been invested more than 5 billion dollars for such network. Beside the necessity of bigger bandwidth there is one more substantial difference between cable TV and IPTV. Usually, the cable TV offers all channels simultaneously to the receiver. Of course this is possible, because the quality of service is poorer. Right on contrary, most of currently offered IPTV service provides only a few SDTV channels (4-5) and one or two HDTV channel(s) simultaneously. The problem with the speed deteriorates if you would like to use Internet, while watching TV. All drawbacks mentioned above are primary caused by the higher price for fiber optic wires, but eventually it would become more affordable after more people switched to IPTV.
  4. 4. Advantages At this point, you’re probably wondering why bother replacing something that has already proved its place beneath the sun, i.e., cable and satellite TV. However, it turns out that the IPTV could and actually offers dramatic improvements over all of its outdated competitors. Having adopted the IP protocol, the communication between the supplier (centralized server) and the end user (set-top box – a dedicated device knowing how to use IP protocol and to decode in real time the video stream) become bilateral. The main outcomes of this are: - Every user is uniquely identified. - An attempt to breach the private network with fake ID is seriously diminished and thus the security is increased by default. All not authorized ID are merely forbidden even to connect to the network. - IP protocol provides a great opportunity to transmit all kind of data. For instance the very preferences of every user, i.e., when and which channel is being watched, by which user and all kind of such useful data. Of course, it would be then sold for a fair or even obscenely high price to the advertising sector. Furthermore, this means that advertising companies would know their exact target audience and could reach it directly. On the other hand, users would be offered a well balanced, preferably made by them, list of advertisements that they had chosen to subscribe to. Of course, selecting no advertisement would not be a valid option, because the supplier would know your preferences anyway. - Since IP protocol is general means to transmit data, it would be much easer to develop software for such environment. As long as the speed is not a problem, this means that all underling encryption/decryption protocols and encoding/decoding video stream protocols could be updated without to affect infrastructure of the network. - Not to mention the fact that with appropriate software the clients could and would browse Internet. There is a technical term about this kind of service called “triple play”: TV, VoIP and Internet. However, so far there is bandwidth constraints regarding this service and it’s still not widely popularized. - The improved security and the ability to pinpoint the activity of every member of the network would certainly contribute to the copyright preservation. Resulting in decreasing of the piracy, as long as there are strict subscription mechanisms. In order to appreciate the IPTV, it’s better to take a closer look at the new services which it offers: - Video On Demand - Personal Media Channels - Addressable Advertising Video On Demand (VoD) is a service providing television programs on demand. In order to request a certain channel, you have to first subscribe to it. After you’ve subscribed to particular channel you could query server’s database for desired video stream. Furthermore, it could be fast forward and backward. Of course, IPTV is still offering a live broadcast, but it’s not necessary to attend them, either because you could recode them or merely to download them directly from DB. Personal Media Channels (PMC) is a service providing a private and secure channels for sharing video, audio and picture files between certain members of the private network.
  5. 5. However, in order this to happen, the member who shares its files is also supposed to authorize the rest of the members for its list. The actual sending of files is done via IPTV. As already mentioned, Addressable Advertising would be one of the main revenue factors for any IPTV supplier. It would enable advertisements to be sent directly to particular target group. From marketing point of view, this would reduce advertisements cost and probably would lead to further increase of revenue both for advertisers and for IPTV suppliers. One of the subtleties regarding IPTV is the following case: Imaging that particular house has 4 TVs and 3 of them are watching the same channel. However, since every TV is equipped with the necessary hardware and software (set-top box) to playback the received channels it might turned out that in particular moment the supplier’s server is requested 3 queries for the same channel, but with different start time, resulting in 3 different video streams. The technical term for this event is called Multicast streaming. Conclusion IPTV is a new and still developing technology. Faster computers and higher bandwidth connections are making it a lot more attractive alternative to passive old-fashion television. As the technology advances, we will become a witness of more dramatic improvements in IPTV. Some of which surely will be the increased number of available HD channels and undoubtfully a vast variety of third party software tools, which would facilitate our needs to narrow down the desired information. So far we are seeing it effectively implemented on the Internet with great success. Therefore, it won’t be a surprise, but rather a natural consequence to see the TV and the rest of home entertainment to be permanently moved to Internet. Some companies such as Microsoft have already prepared themselves for this movement. Undoubtfully, anytime corporations such a Microsoft or AT&T, capable of investing hundreds of million of dollars or even billions are involved, there must be more then meets the eye. The way IPTV television is being created integrates multiple ways to monitor and record user choices, preferences and selections over time. Therefore, it appears to be an ideal platform on which to add personalized commerce options and more targeted advertising. In other words, the simple abbreviation IPTV is supposed to be the next major breakthrough in entertainment business.