When we talk about online streaming, there are a lot of terms we come across, IPTV being one of them. We are witnessing a paradigm shift from traditional modes of delivery like cable or satellite TV to internet streaming and as a system IPTV has a major role to play in this transitional phase.
Essentially, customers don’t care so much about owning the content as they are accessing it. This is where IPTV comes in.
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly IPTV means, its operation and architecture, the types of IPTV services and the future of IPTV.
What is IPTV?
IPTV refers to Internet Protocol television where the Internet is used to broadcast TV programs and videos live or on demand. IPTV is a system in which digital television service is provided to the subscriber through an Internet Protocol through a broadband connection or the Internet.
It’s slightly different from digital video accessed by millions of users on sites or apps like YouTube or Netflix, but it shares a bit of the same ubiquitous and invasive nature. Moreover, unlike the standard cable or satellite connection, several IPTV televisions can use a single subscription in the same house.
IPTV gives viewers the added benefit and convenience of being able to choose the show they want to watch when and where they want, in addition to listening to the live TV shows that are being broadcast today.
To understand how IPTV differs from traditional TV, let’s compare the traditional way of viewing TV with IPTV.
Cable and satellite both work by allowing users to “tune in” to specific channels within that signal and the fundamental difference is that cable is through a wired connection while satellite is wireless (up to until it reaches your house, anyway). A great example of cable television is Time Warner Cable which is broadcast over a coaxial cable connection and an example of satellite television is provided by providers like DirecTV which is transmitted and broadcast to viewers via radio waves.
IPTV uses an Internet Protocol (IP) -based network to route TV channels to the user’s set-top box. Internet networks are different from cable and satellite in that they deliver content through the same client-server model that makes email, websites, and other services on the Internet. As we will see later in this blog, IP or Internet Protocol is the language used for the transfer of data packets between computers connected to the Internet network.
The consumer requests and receives television broadcasts and the video content is transmitted to the viewer via Internet Protocol (IP) based networks instead of cable or satellite. Unlike cable or satellite where content is broadcast in real time, on a transmit and forget model, IPTV has the ability to store programming on servers at the end of the transmission, allowing users to request the content over the Internet. at any time.
How does IPTV work?
IPTV is very similar to browsing the Internet as it is to browsing traditional channels. It simply uses IP (Internet Protocol), a transport protocol which is a mechanism for delivering videos to the viewer. When the viewer clicks on any TV program or requests the video, the video from different sources (servers) is split into data packets and sent over the Internet. Video servers transmit fiber-optic cable programs to existing homes via an Internet connection, and requests are sent and broadcasts resent.
Depending on the network architecture of the service provider, two main types of IPTV architecture can be considered for IPTV deployment: centralized and distributed.
The centralized architecture model is a relatively simple and easy to manage solution. Since all media content is stored on centralized servers, it is not necessary to have a complete content distribution system. The centralized architecture is generally good for a network that provides a relatively small video-on-demand service deployment, has adequate core and peripheral bandwidth, and an efficient content delivery network (CDN).
The distributed architecture is just as scalable as the centralized model, but it has advantages in terms of bandwidth usage and inherent system management features that are essential for managing a larger server network. Operators who plan to deploy a relatively large system should therefore consider implementing a distributed architecture model from the start. The distributed architecture requires intelligent and sophisticated content delivery technologies to increase the efficiency of media delivery over the service provider’s network.
Broadcast content from satellites and local stations is received by the central unit. The central unit is the place where live TV channels and AV sources are encoded, encrypted and broadcast as IP multicast streams. The mainframe will also contain the ad servers, live TV streaming servers, servers and the video on demand (VOD) platform and this is where the video on demand resources are stored and streamed in. IP unicast stream when user makes a request. Sometimes the VOD platform can be located with and be considered part of the IPTV headunit.
The requested videos and TV channels are transmitted to the viewer through the broadcast network which consists of a robust internet uplink via fiber optic from the end of the IPTV broadcasters.
The viewer will receive this signal at their end through their local Internet service provider or preferred service provider, which may vary depending on the options available: broadband, fiber optic, DSL, etc.
When the viewer subscribes to a particular IPTV service, they receive the specific decoder (STB) for the service. A receiver is a piece of equipment that decodes and decrypts TV and VOD streams for retransmission on the TV screen. This decoder is connected to the viewer’s internet connection (router) and uses the internet to transmit video and TV content to the viewer.
Current and future state of IPTV
IPTV has grown steadily over the past few years. The total number of IPTV subscribers worldwide has now passed the 130 million mark. With a net total of six million subscribers, net subscriber additions are the highest in the past 24 months through the end of 2015. They were heavily spiked by the usual suspects like China, which saw 3.7 million new IPTV subscribers register in the fourth quarter of 2015.