Internet Protocol Television
“St. Kliment Ohridski”
Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
- 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.
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
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.
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