Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Basics
Edwin Hoffman CSA
As broadband access networks are deployed worldwide, fixed-network operators are attempting to deliver a
multi-service triple-play—transporting data, voice, and video over an IP network. Broadband access to the Internet
allows real-time voice and video to flow over the same line as the data. IPTV, a major part of triple-play, is
becoming a hot spot in network construction.
Unlike the traditional TV that transmits through cable, satellite, or terrestrial broadcast, IPTV provides subscribers
with high quality interactive TV programs and other entertainment contents over IP networks. In addition to Live
TV, IPTV enables interactive video entertainment like VoD (Video-on-Demand), nPVR (Network-Based Personal
Video Recorder), and time-shift TV (recording a TV program for later viewing). At the same time, it is also possible
to provide value-added services such as Web, e-mail, game, T-commerce, and so on.
HOW DOES IPTV WORK?
IPTV uses a two-way digital broadcast signal sent through a switched telephone or cable network by way of a
broadband connection and a set-top box programmed with software (much like a cable or DSS box) that can
handle viewer requests to access the many available media sources.
IPTV SOLUTION ARCHITECTURE
Raptor Networks has formed partnerships with the “best-of-breed” IPTV hardware and software providers to create
a complete turnkey solution including implementation services. Figure 1 shows the major architecture components
of the solution.
Figure 1: IPTV Architecture
COMPONENTS OF AN IPTV SOLUTION
As a comprehensive end-to-end solution, the Raptor IPTV solution involves broadband networks using Raptor
Networks’ unique distributed switch fabric switching system. The solutions include the following components:
• State-of-the-art IPTV middleware
• TV headend
• VoD systems
• Media content protection systems (CA/DRM)
• IP STB (set-top boxes)
Middleware is software that connects two otherwise separate applications. IPTV middleware acts as the IPTV core
platform. It implements complete management of IPTV (and other triple-play features) by providing, the
management of user, service, channel/package, and programs together with billing functions and service statistics.
The correct middleware provides abundant API interfaces to integrate with the OSS (operational support system)
to help operators deliver IPTV services in large scale implementations and in a quicker time to market. In addition,
it integrates with VoD systems, headend, CA/DRM, STB, and the network realizing automatic service deployment
and user access control. Middleware should also include TV Portal/EPG (electronic program guide) support and
provide these services out-of-the-box with minimal customization.
The digital TV headend is composed of MPEG Encoder, IRD, A/V Router, and so on. An IPTV headend provides
MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 to broadcast (multicast) Live TV contents to set-top boxes (or STB clients on PCs).
It receives, demodulates, and decrypts video and audio content from a variety of sources, such as satellites,
terrestrial, studio, and storage. It converts the signals through compression techniques into IP multicast
encapsulated MPEG streams.
The core part of headend, the encoder, implements the following:
• Real-time encoding and transcoding of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 through the hardware
• Rate shaping, rate converting, and IP encapsulating
In many cases, the headend function can be delivered as a complete package over a single protected fiber feed
from a content provider, where the headend is in reality being leased from the provider. This allows IPTV
(triple-play) to be implemented with minimal headend costs and is much faster than providing the complete
headend implementation. The offset here is that content-resell margins are narrower.
Many IPTV solutions integrate a VoD system, which enhances audio/video on-demand services. The VoD system
normally consists of streaming server(s) and content distribution management system. Some systems are adapted
to deliver VoD, nPVR, and time-shift TV when integrated with middleware. VoD systems with support for
distributed CDN (Content Delivery Networks) enables it to distribute the contents intelligently and to achieve a
flexible location of central server cluster and edge server clusters, thus facilitating large-scale deployment of VoD.
MEDIA CONTENT PROTECTION SYSTEMS AND IP STB
Any IPTV solution must support an innovational and cost-effective contents protection technology, network CA
(content access) for Live TV, and session-based encryption for VoD. Raptor Networks provides network CA by
offering unsurpassed multicast capabilities that controls access to content using industry-standard multicast control
mechanisms. These capabilities, when allied with middleware embedded on the STB, creates a powerful access
Raptor Networks’ complete IPTV solution integrates third-party CA/DRM (Content Access/Digital Rights
Management) systems to provide perfect contents protection. All media contents are protected by the CA/DRM
system, including live TV and on-demand. In the Raptor Networks’ solution, the STB is part of the CA/DRM
solution, including PC client STB.
To successfully implement an IPTV (triple-play) solution the customer needs to have (or create) a low-latency,
low-jitter, high-performance IP network as a cost effectively as possible. These goals are often mutually exclusive
because much of traditional networking hardware and software were designed for legacy data networks and cannot
efficiently transport multicast video, and certainly cannot provide fast failover networks with low-latency
Only Raptor Networks can provide low-latency, low-jitter, high-performance, and low-cost networks with superb
multicast capacity and resilient enough on which to base IPTV (triple-play) implementation. Raptor Networks and
its partners can provide a complete design and implementation service for IPTV (triple-play) solutions that has been
tried and tested in several areas. Raptor Networks is presently implementing a triple-play solution in a major city,
leading eventually to 1,250,000 subscribers.
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