The promise of IPTV – TV delivered using the Internet Protocol – was to bring all the utility and benefits of the Internet to the delivery of video services. These benefits included extreme interactivity and applying resources more efficiently.

To a degree, IPTV was supposed to do for TV what VoIP did for traditional phone service. IPTV was expected to make possible switching between channels without delay, interactive program guides, purchasing merchandise via TV while watching a commercial, video chatting with friends nationwide while watching the big game on the same TV and more. While some of these features have come to fruition, others still are in the works.

The Broadband Barrier
Delivering IPTV – especially multiple streams of HD-quality TV – has pushed the bandwidth envelop for telcos. While fiber offered near limitless bandwidth possibilities, fiber deployment hasn’t always been economical, especially because telcos must keep pricing competitive with established cable companies. 

VDSL2 and hybrid fiber/copper networks have come to the telco rescue as a more economic choice. AT&T has used Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) coupled with VDSL2 (and ADSL2+) for the last mile for its U-verse service and has demonstrated continued success with this approach. And AT&T is not alone; CenturyLink, Frontier and Hawaii Telecom, among others, are all successfully deploying a hybrid fiber/VDSL2 network What’s more, technological developments including channel bonding and vectoring have made VDSL2 even more attractive as a last-mile option alongside FTTN deployments. These advances have not only expanded the loop length but have demonstrated the potential for reaching speeds as fast as 100 Mbps. 

The Multiscreen Experience
The explosive adoption of such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets has necessitated the addition of more features to the IPTV wish list. These devices and the always-on broadband network surrounding them have created a new breed of connected consumers. They want to be in touch with all their information, entertainment and their acquaintances all the time, no matter where they are. They want a seamless entertainment experience over multiple screens. They can start watching their favorite show at home on the big-screen TV and continue watching it on their mobile phone on the go – adding more demands on IPTV.

The Connected Home
These days, more households have three or more TVs compared with two or fewer just a few years ago. This puts more pressure on service providers that now have to provide more HDTV streams as well as record/replay capabilities to multiple TVs in the household. Having a powerful home network with a single point of management via a broadband gateway offers a better, more affordable solution that is easier to manage, compared to separate set-top boxes for each TV. Over the years, several technologies including Wi-Fi, powerline networking, Home PNA (HPNA) and MoCA have been developed to create a seamless and transparent network capable of streaming HD media.

Powerline networking using the HomePlug AV standard is becoming extremely popular with carriers offering IPTV. In addition to “plug-n-play” simplicity, the latest HomePlug AV standard offers speeds as fast as 500 Mbps, optimized for HD media streaming. The latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi draft also promises speeds to 1300 Mbps, making it ideal for IPTV. However Wi-Fi media streamers that take advantage of the low-interference 5 GHz frequency band and the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard have been available for more than a year, and they have seen quick adoption by service providers for their Wi-Fi-loving subscribers. Home PNA and MoCA are other technologies that operate over coax cable and that offer high, stable bandwidth for HD media-streaming and IPTV. 

Winning Battles
In addition to cable companies, over the last few years, telcos also have been battling the “cord cutting” phenomenon for over-the-top (OTT) services like Hulu and Netflix, coupled with devices like Roku and Apple TV. However, IPTV is here to stay and has been gaining momentum. In 2012, cable lost 1.66 million customers, according to SNL Kagan, while telcos registered a gain for their IPTV services.

IPTV was a key revenue driver for all major telcos in 2012. Not only does IPTV provide higher ARPUs but it also increased the likelihood of subscribers buying three or four bundled services. Carriers recently saw a 70-percent-to-90-percent take rate in bundled services with IPTV. So the battle for TV domination is on, and the telcos, equipped with new technology, are up for the fight.

Contact the author at jacobs@zyxel.com.

ED NOTE: This article originally appeared in sister pub CT Daily.

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