IPTV – This Time Around
by Leslie Ellis // September 14 2009
The last time this column really checked in on Internet Protocol Television, from a marketplace perspective, was in mid-summer 2006, when 59 vendors listed themselves under “IPTV” at GlobalComm, a telco show.
(Just to keep things confusing, another 32 were listed under “IP video,” and 18 straddled both categories.)
Back then, “IPTV” was the way telcos, and especially AT&T, were going to get into the subscription video business: They’d add it as a layer on top of their existing DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) platform.
Given that this year’s European IBC show (Sept. 10-15 in Amsterdam) lists 162 companies in its “IPTV zone,” it seems timely, to check in on what IPTV means to cable people.
For starters, it’s always best to ask. This is one of those terms that means different things to different people.
Up until (very) recently, the notion of cable IPTV was more conundrum than potential reality. Why make room on an already crowded digital shelf for yet another way to send the same stuff? Today’s cable operators are already triple-casting a lot of content, meaning it comes to the TV set in analog, standard definition, and high definition formats.
But that’s the old way of looking at it. Here’s a surface-level look at the chronology: Analog yielded to digital. Digital begat broadband. Broadband created the surge of devices that want an Internet connection – and lots of those devices are intended to display video.
The next chapter, then, is IP-connected, which means that more and more TVs and HDTVs will come plumbed with an Ethernet connector. If you’re the guy who built the pipe into the home, you want it to connect to as many things as possible.
So, hello, cable IPTV. What it means, practically, is this: DOCSIS 3.0 and its “wideband” features, enabled by channel bonding, will enable the equivalent of an IP “simulcast” of existing linear and on-demand video.
But ultimately, the transition to cable IPTV will touch just about everything, from provisioning to set-tops, and including the guide and the billing system. The good news is, one of the hallmarks of IP is its low cost. The bad news is only bad if you’re change averse, because cable IPTV ushers in a whole new batch of change.