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09.17.2006
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
IPTV: Telcos strike back

IPTV is facilitated by broadband Internet pipes into the customer premise. Faster delivery of increasingly compressed digital content now enables the capability of broadcast-quality video and HDTV real-time streaming over the Internet. ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+ and the emerging VDSL methodologies are the enabling technologies..

Advanced compression codecs such as MPEG-4 AVC, Part 10, and VC-1/WMV are being used to deliver the high-quality video at a low bit rate. Audio is often delivered using advanced audio coding (AAC) compression.

IPTV has come to mean several things. Some describe it as a solely telco-based fiber technology. Others, as a move from sending all TV channels to all consumer’s homes simultaneously over cable, to using dedicated switched video circuits where only the desired programs are delivered to the consumer on a demand basis.

The Internet

The Internet as we know it today exploded in the mid 1990s; however, it was never designed for multimedia, and much less for broadcast-quality video distribution. New technology and fiber now make high-speed video and data to the home possible.

Internet Protocol

Internet Protocol defines a numbering and naming methodology for locating devices on a network. Four 8-bit octets define a logical, or IP, network address. This IP address is bound to a unique Media Access Control (MAC) number. This number is physically burned (flash memory) into a device, creating an unambiguous locator for each networked device.

As touched on in the last newsletter, cable operators are using IP methodology to distribute programming to the edge. Edge devices, servers and encoders, allow for distributed and more granular delivery of content.

Standards

The ITU standard G.992.5 is also referred to as ADSL2+. This methodology extends the capability of basic ADSL by doubling the number of downstream bits that can be sent over copper or other links. The data rates can be as high as 24Mb/s downstream and 1 Mb/s upstream, depending on the distance from the DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) to the customer's home.

Broadcast equipment manufactures are rapidly developing IP solutions. Harmonic is in the process of acquiring the IPTV networking software groups of Entone Technologies. TANDBERG Television's next-generation compression platform enables two full-resolution HDTV channels over ADSL2.

The last mile to the customer premises has always been the major bottleneck for high-speed connectivity. Today, copper is being replaced by fiber. Passive optical networks (PONs) are an attractive alternative because of the decreased deployment costs and increased backbone performance, 622Mb/s downstream and 155Mb/s upstream. This capacity would typically be divided between network end user nodes.

FTTC (Fiber to the Curb) replaces copper with fiber distribution to within 1000ft of customer locations. Coax completes the connection and limits bandwidth.

FTTH (Fiber to the Home) deploys fiber to the customer, eliminating copper completely. This enables the highest bandwidth and transfer speed. However, FTTH cannot deliver power over fiber as can be done over copper in FTTC deployments.

VDSL (Very high bit rate Digital Subscriber Line) eliminates the need to replace copper. Distances of 1000ft to 4500ft can support data rates of 13Mb/s to 55Mb/s.

Pedal to the metal

Is the Internet, as it exists today, a viable delivery mechanism for broadcast-quality TV? Yes — in some applications. IPv4 has been around for a long time. IPv6, the Internet's next iteration, is in varying stages of rollout in private, business and government sectors.

IPv6 (RFC 2460) extends naming to 128 bits to accommodate the need for more IP addresses. But more importantly for media applications, IPv6 has a provision to guarantee QoS (Quality of Service). This guaranteed bandwidth will enable broadcast-quality video and data distribution.

The research and development, scientific and government communities are forging a faster, bigger internetwork. The first deployment created by the Internet2 community, known as Abilene, connects universities and corporations across the United States on a 10Gb/s backbone. Uncompressed HD at 1.5Gb/s has been successfully streamed.

IPTV rollout

Broadcasters are moving forward by making deals to supply content for delivery by a variety of IPTV service providers. Earlier this year, CBS cut a deal for carriage on Verizon’s FiOS system, while PBS and Verizon have agreed to full multicast carriage. In Canada, MTS TV is offering U.S. network affiliate stations in HD over IPTV.

Microsoft is a player in IPTV and offers an integrated solution with Alcatel. AT&T U-verse rolled out initially in San Antonio, and is now the only pure IPTV Microsoft deployment. Verizon has rolled out IPTV in Maryland, Virginia, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Texas. Such deployments by these new players are forcing state legislatures to reconsider content delivery franchises.

Previously, cable operators had to obtain rights on a local community basis. Today, the new players are being granted distribution on a statewide basis.

Moving on…

It is clear that content distribution is no longer linked to a single delivery channel. The future is multichannel delivery, which forces broadcasters to devise efficient, parallel production and distribution workflows and processes.

Whether for entertainment or for information, TV programming is meant to be consumed. The audience doesn't care how the content is delivered. The delivery technology should be invisible to the user.

Presentation matters, features matter, ease of use matters, viewer customization matters. Watching wherever and whenever matters. Tomorrow's audiences will expect to get their content anywhere, anytime on any viewing device. Broadcasters need to be there.

The next series of T2Ds will focus on the last phase of the media lifecycle, content consumption and how this affects its production and delivery.

References

IPv6 and Internet2 information can be found at:
www.qwest.com/about/qwest/internet2/faqs.html
www.ipv6tf.org.

Search for meanings for IPT V terminology at:
www.iptvdictionary.com.

For a business and technology IPTV overview read:
www.convergedigest.com/whitepapers/documents/Laurel-IPTV.pdf.

A discussion of IPTV network technologies is available at:
www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=article&articleid=CA6347250.
www.iptvmagazine.com/2005_10/iptvmagazine_2005_10_new_iptv_requirements.htm.



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