IPTV first trailed in 1994, but despite the proliferation of broadband across the UK in the ensuing years, its market penetration has been minimal up till now.
That’s not to say that home users aren’t using the internet for TV, on-demand streaming services such as iPlayer and SkyGo are testament to the fact they are. However, these services are what you might describe as hybrid IPTV, given they combine IP with traditional broadcast services. ‘True’ IPTV offers far greater benefits than what most of us experience currently; users have more choice of channels, significantly higher capacity for TV and video sources, as well as increased scope for customised features and levels of interaction (eg. Smart TV) . IPTV can also equate to a more efficient use of resources, through what we might term ‘network convergence’ i.e where business and consumers are able to use one unified connection for data, voice, tv etc.
One of the reasons why IPTV hasn’t fulfilled its potential is bandwidth, or rather - lack of it. However between Q3 in 2010 and Q3 2011 Europe witnessed a growth of approximately 68% in VDSL and FFTH services – opening doors for IPTV to make its way into our living rooms.
Another significant development has been IPV6 and its capacity to support multicasting more effectively. Multicast will allow network providers to disseminate information for IPTV more efficiently and at a cheaper cost – which should translate to a better customer experience and increased adoption.
What is important to consider from a technical and industry perspective, is the support and maintenance requirements, which will need to be of a high standard in order for the service to run smoothly. While TV might not be a business critical application, broadband bug bears like contention, outages could have grave dilemma’s, say if your service was to freeze during a dramatic scene in a East Enders Christmas special, or a tie breaker during a Wimbledon final.
So will the next few years see IPTV takeover traditional broadcast formats? As long as service providers can offer more robust, consistent broadband connections I can’t see why not – multicast should help ISP’s minimise long term costs, and there is already strong consumer demand for unified services in the home. Personally a ‘Smart’ IP controlled TV - with access to all channels from multiple devices, and the capacity to record and store as I like , anywhere , anytime – would be a welcome addition to my household.