What is... IPTV?

IPTV is the new acronym for Internet Protocol TV. In most cases, it means a system to deliver television programming using the Internet protocol (language) over computer networks. IPTV is a very hot topic these days, especially at telephone companies, who see the technology as a way to enter the television delivery business in order to compete with cable, direct-to-home satellite and over-the-air broadcasting.

Some companies are taking IPTV very seriously with major capital investments. Verizon, the nation’s largest phone company, is in the midst of a huge project to wire every home in its 29-state territory with fiber optic cable. If and when that day comes, Verizon could use fiber-to-the-door to deliver hundreds of channels of IPTV (both standard and high definition), ultra-fast Internet access, voice telephone service and about any other data service a customer could want—all at the same time over one tiny wire.

This fall another corporate behemoth turned its attention to IPTV. Microsoft’s TV division announced plans to develop a new IPTV delivery platform designed to enable cable and telecommunications operators to offer improvements on today’s pay-TV services as well as next-generation TV over existing broadband networks.

Planned features include instant channel changing, multimedia programming guides with integrated video, and multiple picture-in-picture capability on standard television sets. High-definition television, next-generation digital video recording and video on demand (VOD) functionality also will be supported. Microsoft said it will work with Bell Canada, the largest Canadian telecommunications company, to test and deploy the system.

Numerous technology companies are already offering a wide range of ways and products to transmit video over IP networks. Among them are Microspace Communications; Minerva Networks; SeaChange International; Star Valley Solutions; and Tandberg Television.

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