Perhaps a few grizzled industry veterans remember the t-shirts from
years ago that proudly proclaimed, “IP on everything.” While the
bearers of those shirts may have had other IP avenues in mind back in
the day, IPTV is certainly reaching its incubation stage. While SBC garnered a lot of attention with its
announcement that it was throwing $4 billion at IPTV in order to reach
customers’ homes, cable operators have been experimenting in labs and
in the field. Time Warner Cable teams up with RealNetworks Time Warner Cable has the biggest IPTV trial underway with its "Broadband TV" deployment in the San Diego sections of Mira Mesa and Tierrasanta. “We started a six-month trial in mid-July to those two areas, and once
that concludes, we’ll decide if we want to continue it in other parts
of San Diego or in other divisions around the country,” says TWC
spokesman Mark Harrod. “The test is to see whether customers care. The
focus groups say yes, but we’re going to test and test IP technology to
see if this an effective way of providing another service.” Harrod says there are 9,000 qualified customers in the two San Diego communities, which means they’re current Road Runner customers. TWC was hoping for at least 1,000 interested users, and a month and a half in, Harrod says it has at least that number who are participating The service provides TWC’s standard tier of 75 channels, which excludes
digital channels, for free to customers’ PCs and laptop computers. TWC’s IPTV easy to deploy Harrod says the beauty of IPTV is that the existing IP infrastructure
is already largely in place and that customers need only to download a RealNetworks media player and then log onto a Web site with their account numbers. "Depending on the quality of the TV you have in your living room, it’s (IPTV) not the exact same quality, but it’s not latent or broken up," Harrod says. "It’s a very real-time experience with the same shows and the same commercials as what the people in the living room are watching. It doesn’t allow your computer controls to stop, rewind or fast forward the shows." Will customers want TV on PCs? Harrod says one of IPTV’s potential attractions is saving bandwidth in a fashion similar to switched digital by not keeping a dedicated channel to a network when a subscriber isn’t viewing that channel. “Some people think IPTV is a silver bullet, but it’s a standard,”
Harrod says. “What we’re looking at is whether customers want this as
benefit on their computers at home or not.” Charter also looking at IPTV Charter Communications is also eyeing IPTV, but David Housman, Charter’s vice president of technology, strategy and development, says, "We’re very, very much in the early stages" of a lab trial. Charter may use IPTV for enhancements to video streams, to interactive applications and/or to set-top boxes. Charter is also looking at IP video technologies for nonTV devices, but hasn’t said which devices. "The thing we have to be very careful on is when we treat these IP video streams that are going to a on TV device-a nonMoto or nonS-A box-is that the digital rights management needs to be, at a minimum, as secure as it is today," Housman says. "We need to have a clear distinction of IP transport to a device that is protected vs. something that we’re kind of dumping on the Internet. My understanding is that the programmers have no intention of letting that happen, and I don’t blame them. It (programming) is an asset, and to just turn it loose on the Internet makes no sense to them or to me." -Mike Robuck Communications Technology will have more on IPTV in its November issue.

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