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What is IPTV?
(Internet Protocol Television)

According to iSuppli, the IPTV market stood at about $780 million in 2006. That number is possibly set to rise to $26 billion by 2011. (Reference)

IPTV – (May be known as, or associated with Internet-protocol Television, Telco TV, TelcoTV, Video over IP, Internet TV, IP-broadband, IPTV over DSL, IP VOD, IP VOD Channel, Broadband-based TV, Terrestrial-based Internet-over-TV service, TV-over-ADSL, TV-based Internet, Broadband-based TV, ITV-over-DSL, Broadband ITV, ADSL-based VOD, IP-based Video, IP-based VOD system, Interactive Broadband Television, Web TV, Terrestrial-based Internet-over-TV, Internet-based TV Services, TV over DSL Networks, Web-enabled Broadcasting.) (Interactive IPTV, IP-based Interactive TV Applications.) Note - IPTV can provide excellent Interactive Television but the term "IPTV" is not synonymous with Interactive TV. IPTV has also been referred to as Internet TV and Telco TV. but a distinction between "IPTV" and "Internet Television" is that unlike the Internet, IPTV is Internet Protocol content (in the form of packets) provided by network operators (and others) over closed networks. (The Internet is a gigantic open network.) (More of the difference here.) Very important to the IPTV closed network is the "Final Mile" to the consumer's premises.

IPTV is next-generation television delivered over a managed network. Depending on how robust the system is, IPTV technology can provide more than just video services; it can provide access to on-demand gaming, data services, digital music and home security. (Interactive Television Networks has launched Pulse, which it claims is the first IPTV music video network. More info.) IPTV technology can provide a single stream to multiple clients simultaneously (multicasting). It can also utilize unicast delivery for providing services to a single client (receiver) for applications such as Video On Demand. Typically video content is compressed using either a MPEG-2 or a MPEG-4 (H.264) codec and then sent in an MPEG transport stream. Live TV is delivered via IP Multicast and on demand services most often use IP Unicast. Using H.264 for compression is of great importance when transporting IP HDTV due to it's huge size, but MPEG-2 might still be used for interactivity and other things.

For transmission IPTV might use the Internet, but many IPTV deployments use Internet-like closed networks, as is the case with telcos. IPTV might also be used over smaller networks such as LANs. IPTV is a system capable of transmitting, delivering, receiving and displaying a video stream encoded as a series of Internet Protocol packets. IPTV can offer great interactivity and virtually limitless programming. Only channels selected by the user are delivered to that user, as compared to many channels being delivered to the user and he/she then chooses which to watch. The switched digital video architecture gives IPTV technology the ability to customize a unique viewing experience for each individual subscriber. IPTV essentially offers a one-to-one signal, providing channels on-demand as opposed to the standard commercial television`s 'always on' model. In this 'always on' model of delivery, a huge number of channels are sent to the customer and the customer, via their remote, flips through these delivered channels and decides which to watch. With IPTV, when a customer clicks on a channel, that's when the channel's content is sent for viewing. Each IPTV program has an IP address, and the subscriber`s IPTV set-top box, or related device, finds it. IPTV channel changes typically are faster than the competition. IPTV and other IP-based broadband services can be sent to devices other than a set-top box including phones and portable media devices. Delivered can be over a variety of networks, including WiMAX. With IPTV, the router can beam the signal to a Wi-Fi laptop or desktop computer in that room or even in another room.

According to iSuppli, the IPTV market stood at about $780 million in 2006. That number is set to rise to 26 billion by 2011. "Recent forecasts from Alcatel-Lucent show that IPTV subscriptions are set to reach between 70 million and 100 million by 2010. “Europe outstrips the rest of the world in the uptake of IPTV – particular hot spots are France, Spain and Italy." (Reference).

While the telcos are leading the charge with IPTV, there is a big market for IPTV in the enterprise (business), hospitality and education markets, (example). A business can even use IPTV technology for in-store and on-premises communication. (Reference.) This type of IPTV system might be able to be controlled from a single PC either remotely or in-house.

Two of the earliest IPTV deployments were done by:

(1) In March, 1998, the former Cable & Wireless Hongkong Telecom (HKT) launched "iTV" a commercial Interactive Television service which was the predeccor to Hong Kong’s PCCW's IPTV service.  Its endeveor (now known as "NOW TV") is still in operation today, (reference 1 & reference 2).

(2) Kingston Communications. Kinston launched KIT (Kingston Interactive Television), a DSL-based broadband service in 1999. The Kinston re-launched its VoD service in October 2001 via Yes TV, a provider of IP-based VoD service and solutions. Kingston was one of the first companies in the world to introduce IPTV and IP VOD over ADSL. It unfortunately was ahead of it's time and didn't survive, (reference).

According to a NMRC report, the early growth of IPTV will not be driven by the need to  replace traditional television but as a customized platform focusing on the needs of professional groups and organizations. Joseph Fergus, CEO of ComTek Technologies, said that the immediate future of IPTV is about targeting three groups: highly mobile professionals, state and local governments and non-profit organizations. (From TMCnet).

IPTV content providers can transmit IPTV content to your PC, phone and more. IPTV content aggregators (collectors and providers) can offer the public and/or service providers fast and easy access to authorized IPTV programming content. See IPTV Guide. As of June 2006, there were over 1,300 free IPTV channels available, the vast majority of which transmitted their broadcast signal over the Internet. These free IPTV channels require only an Internet connection and an Internet enabled device such as a PC, digital media receivers, game console, mobile phones etc. (Reference.)

In the states the biggest name in IPTV deployment is AT&T. (Article.) AT&T's U-verse IPTV is impressive but those getting U-verse IPTV now might have only limited interactivity as part of this initial deployment.

In January of 2007, Microsoft announced it will combine its Xbox 360 with its IPTV software for service providers, allowing its video-game console to be turned into an IPTV set-top box. Microsoft referred to it as "IPTV on Xbox 360". This IPTV-enabled Xbox will be offered by service providers "by holiday-season 2007." (Reference.)

With Google buying up such an incredible amount of spectrum, maybe they have plans to start their own IPTV networks (among other things)? (Reference.)

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