Since the 1950’s, people have used TV’s as their number one source of entertainment. TV channel content and display technologies have continuously been improved since then resulting in better user experience. The development of mobile and internet technologies in the 21st century has greatly influenced the way we watch TV. Internet broadband cables are now replacing standard cables and satellite dishes for broadcasting purposes. Though there are many choices of channels using conventional broadcasting methods, they are usually very limited and can only be viewed on the day and time of broadcast. However, with the use of internet technology to deliver TV programs almost instantly at your request, you can watch your favourite shows whenever and wherever you want. This is one of the great things that IPTV has to offer. People can enjoy a TV watching experience similar to watching videos online.
IPTV (a.k.a Internet Protocol Television) refers to streaming video and other related services delivered through the Internet using an IP address. These related services include Video On Demand (VOD), Live TV and Interactive TV (iTV). Instead of using conventional cable formats, video channels and programs are delivered to your TV through a network connection. A set-top box is needed to use internet protocol TV. Set-top box is a kind of adapter that encodes incoming signals so your TV can display Internet programs and can fit your Internet connection with your existing television receiver. Internet protocol television sends programs one at a time or by small batches unlike with the traditional television delivery wherein all programs are broadcasted simultaneously. Only the program that the customer chose will be sent to the home and other content remains on the service provider’s network.
Historically, the term IPTV first appeared in 1995. From that time on, many different names have been given to IPTV such as primary streams over IP Networks, and transport streams over IP Networks. International Telecommunication Union and Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions have approved an official and detailed definition of IPTV to help customers understand what Internet Protocol TV is and how it works.
There are three classifications of Internet Protocol Television: Video on Demand, Time-shifted IPTV and IP Simulcasting. Netflix is an online movie website and is a great example of Video on Demand (VOD). Most people like using Netflix as it is a convenient way of watching their favourite movies and programs and has a wide range collection of movies and TV programs they offer. You just have to pay a monthly fee and you can watch as many movies and TV shows as you want. Time-shifted Internet Protocol Television is a different kind of Internet Protocol Television offered by some enterprising TV broadcasters. This is called time-shifted because you can watch ordinary and scheduled broadcasts anytime and anywhere you want. In IP Simulcasting, also called Live Internet Protocol Television, people can watch live TV events online. All these three forms work on either with a set-top box and a digital TV or a computer and an ordinary web browser.
How does IPTV work?
Traditional televisions can broadcast programs by turning them into radio waves and beaming through the air to a rooftop antenna on your home. These waves will be converted back to electrical signals. The television will then decode them to produce sounds and pictures. Cable and Satellite TV works the same way except that Cable Television sends signals directly into your home without the use of radio waves, while Satellite TV bounces broadcast signals into space and onto satellite dish receivers. IPTV works differently from these conventional methods of television broadcast.
To get started with Internet TV, of course, you’ll need an internet connection and a router. Set-top box is also essential as it will connect to home DSL line and help to reassemble packets into a coherent video stream and then decodes them. Set-top boxes and TVs mostly contain IPTV services that will access YouTube. By just using your remote control, you can browse videos and watch live streams conveniently.
The great thing about Internet Protocol TV is that it’s almost like owning the movie or television series because the users can watch them whenever they want. However, people should take note that VoD providers cannot keep videos in their archives forever. Video on demand services need to limit the programs that they make available to reduce the overall bandwidth and the impact on Internet.
To prepare TV programs, they need to be converted into a digital form first to deliver them as packet using Internet protocol. Some programs can be in an SD format that needs to be converted from analogue to digital. Movies or videos need to be made into smaller files for a smooth video streaming and avoid periodic delays or buffering. Videos can be encoded as MPEG4 and MPEG2 format to give higher quality for a similar bandwidth as they are the newest form of video compression. After the video compression, information is encrypted and advertisements are inserted.
In streaming videos, you can sometimes experience unnecessary delays and buffering since many clients simultaneously load on the server. IP multicasting is used for streaming where server can simultaneously send information to many clients in different locations much like as to a single client. It is difficult to send reliable and equal information from your server to a local client and a client in a different place. So with content delivery networks (CDNs), same copies of the same data are created. IPTV providers use CDNs to synchronize and create worldwide networks on server.
Internet Protocol Television providers controls the entire network for a private Internet to guarantee a level of quality and service. Delivering IPTV available in private and managed network is entirely different in making it available over public Internet. Managed networks can help store programs and coordinate the entire service through a national office known as Super head-end.
Anyone who has a computer and a reliable internet connection can view programs in Internet Protocol TV. It is not just applicable for computers and laptops but can be enjoyed on your home television set as well. You can enjoy your favourite movies or TV programs on your high-definition and widescreen TV with the use of set-top box as it will receive input from your Internet connection and decodes them to finally display high quality TV picture.
There are several distinct benefits of Internet Protocol TV that viewers can take advantage of over current digital or air broadcast TV signals:
1) IPTV is easier to integrate compare to other forms of broadcast television. Internet TV can come with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and normal Internet broadband. These services can be integrated in one package and sent directly to the consumer for lesser costs and provide more convenience to the consumers. They can save time and effort in dealing with one Internet Protocol TV service providers instead of three.
2) IPTV can also deliver more functional and diverse content than regular broadcast or cable television services allowing viewers to have greater experience in choosing movies or programs they want to watch.
3) A fully interactive service with the ability to connect to the rest of the world. Internet TV will definitely grow it's popularity as more and more people gain access to an internet connection in the coming years. Almost a third of the planet’s population or around 2 billion people are internet users because Internet became more accessible to people than ever before. The flexibility and beneficial factors of Internet Protocol Television made people to enjoy movies and TV programs in a different way than simply watching through a standard TV set.
Cable and Satellite TV broadcasters use lots of bandwidth unnecessarily because they generally send all television signals at one time. Internet Protocol Television uses IP technology which completes the entire process efficiently. There would be a centre location on which TV data will be held. The channel that the consumer chooses will only be showed that will result to a lesser bandwidth. This will allow adding much more data choices and enhancing broadcast quality since bandwidth is no longer a problem.
IP availability around the world
You can perform much more interactive things with Internet TV than a normal broadcast, cable or satellite system. Since Internet Protocol Television is delivered from Internet, it is easier and faster for data to move from the TV Company to the house and vice versa. These days, there are many innovations that improve interaction between a customer and TV Company through television. You can even vote or take surveys while watching your favourite TV program. You can also directly purchase products seen on commercials from your TV set.
Video on Demand (VOD) is an example of interactive feature of IPTV. It allows you to request programs like movies, sitcoms or TV programs anytime and anywhere you like. You can watch movies and programs you wish to watch by just turning on your TV set and scrolling on the menu. Unlike before that requires you to make time or record movies you’ve missed, this innovation definitely made everyone’s movie watching experience efficient and convenient.
Like many other things, Internet Protocol Television has several drawbacks as well that you should be aware of.:
1) As mentioned earlier, IPTV uses the IP technology that other types of data use to send and receive information. Because of this, it is possible for you to experience packet loss or delays from time to time. This will definitely affect your movie watching experience if your connection is poor or is not enough to transmit signals.
2) Another downside of Internet Protocol TV is that most of them currently do not support HDTV broadcasts. Nevertheless, this should not be a major problem since people continuously develop new innovations that will help to fix this issue in no time.
3) IPTV providers might place a limit on data transfer. You can be charged an additional fee once you exceed the specific limit. This can affect consumer experience since they can’t fully enjoy the service because of the data cap and fear of extra charges.
4) Some of the set-top boxes do not support Universal Plug and Play (UPNP). UPNP helps the users to view and stream content from other storage devices.
Finding IPTV Service Providers in the US
Kingston Communications is a regional telecommunications operator in UK and is one of the first companies in the world to introduce IPTV and IP Movie on Demand over ADSL in commercial market. But due to great loss of subscribers, Kingston had to discontinue in 2006.
Many Internet TV companies around the planet introduced their services throughout the years. Some of them declined and some still exist. There are various Internet Protocol TV services providers that exist in the US today. But there are two companies that top this long list that continuously offer superior solutions that transform and improve subscribers’ experience of watching TV. AT&T and Verizon are two operators that are widely known in the US that offers wide variety of Video on Demand content, customizable user experience and effective integration of Internet-based content.
AT&T U-verse TV has more than 300 channels with majors like HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime. They offer standard package and custom package that range from $59 to $119 per month. They charge additional $10 for HD service. It has features including HD, DVR and VOD.
Verizon FiOs TV offers 200 channels including majors and additional international channels. Their standard price is $39.99 but may change depending on the location. They operate in various cities like NY, CA, NJ, WA, OR and many more. Their offered features include HD, VOD and Multi-room DVR. Multi-room allows user to control and watch DVR programs from multiple rooms.
Other Internet Protocol TV providers in US include SureWest (Consolidated Communication)that has 260 local and international channels. RapidIPTV is also an authority service provider offering premium IPTV subscriptions. Its VOD service allows subscribers to watch unlimited programs in 24 hours with full DVR functionality. Digital Video Services is also known in US that offers various channels and interactive program guide at affordable rates. DVS are family-friendly and can be enjoyed by kids since channel that display mature content are omitted.