Friday, July 14, 2006

IPTV—More than Just a Cable TV Replacement

Most people when they hear “IPTV” today think of it as an impending replacement for Cable TV. But the technology can provide much more. In addition to the Telcos providing video service to compete with the cable companies, individuals and companies can generate and distribute their own content over the internet.

IPTV or Internet Protocol Television is defined in this primer as a packetized delivery of video via Internet Protocol. Instead of pushing all the available channels to a consumer’s home as satellite and cable TV does, IPTV lets the user select the channel and then sends only those packets of information. It uses MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 encoding which operates in the 1-2.5 Mbps. Wikipedia gives an overview of the architecture. New standards are coming into place such as H.264. H.264 is a next generation digital video codec which will replace MPEG-2. Its goal is to create a good quality video but at a lower bit rate.

A report from the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) entitled The State of IPTV discusses how the Apples Ipod and Sling Media‘s SlingBox – a placeshifting technology which allows you to view your Digital Video Recorder content from anywhere not just your home, spur the on-demand market and make IPTV an attractive technology.

IPTV is coming to the US soon. It’s expected to grow from 2M to 34M users between now and 2010. That’s an annual growth rate of 60%. It’s already well rolled out in Asia due to the density of the population in the cities located a short distance to the central office and the lack of an existing cable infrastructure. Om Malik’s blog provides more details. It’s not unusual to see press releases like this one in which Australia and Thailand are adopting an upgraded version of an IPTV service.

A host of companies provide software services and platforms to enable IPTV.
Microsoft offers a software platform for developing IPTV. It enables broadband providers to deliver TV services over their existing IP networks. Media Excel, an Austin-based company provides advanced real-time digital video encoding, transcoding, and streaming for IPTV. Interactive Television Networks Inc, develops set top boxes that stream IPTV packets into a consumer’s home. COMTEK created PowerTV which lets its customers create their own video content and distribute it.

An virtual instrument-based imaging system could be set up to make use IPTV technologies to provide a real-time monitoring at a much lower price, using the commercially available technologies made possible by IPTV providers.

Best regards,
Hall T.