Headlines of 'Broadband set to revolutionise TV' have being common the last few days (e.g BBC News Online), why has this sudden upsurge in interest for TV over broadband in the general media happened? In short it is because of the recent IPTV World forum conference at Earls Court in London. This event saw many of the hardware manufacturers exhibiting their solutions, and how content providers think the future will embrace watching TV over a broadband connection, rather than traditional broadcast mediums. In the past we have featured details on surveys that show people are abandoning TV to use their broadband connection, so to some extent broadcasters will be wanting to chase their viewers and win them back.
So what is IPTV? In perhaps its simplest form, it is watching TV shows using an Internet Protocol connection. Now this is nothing really new, since streaming video has been around for a while, what IPTV should produce is a set of standards and much better quality video than we see now in the UK. Microsoft are one of the many big companies involved, and with the increasing use of Windows Media 9 formats by broadcasters this is not surprising.
The UK is for once not totally behind the times, the provider HomeChoice has been providing video on demand services in the UK since at least 2000, and in the last year they have switched to using local loop unbundling (LLU) allowing them to increase the options on their product. There has also been talk of NTL using LLU to expand their network coverage for TV services, but no sign of this yet.
One issue raised by people is the current spate of usage allowances and various hard and soft caps on the use of broadband services in the UK, is how will this work on metered products. Certainly if 20% of UK broadband users suddenly started to watch a popular show over broadband at the same time, networks would struggle. This means that if IPTV is to have a massed market appeal, service providers and the network providers will need to rethink charging models and network designs. A standard 30 minute TV show running at 1.5Mbps would actually use 350MB (0.35 GigaByte) of peoples allowance. We may find that ISPs are able to fund the transmission of things like TV shows and film, with advertising and partnership deals, or even subscriptions to a VoD service that carries a quality of service guarantee.
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