Editor's Corner

AT&T is the Open IPTV Forum's toehold in the U.S.

The Open IPTV Forum has dominated the IPTV/online video headlines this week, after announcing its formation with some of the biggest names in the IPTV space. The Open IPTV Forum (OIF) aims "to create an interoperable end-to-end specification for personalized and interactive IPTV, and jointly advocate such technologies to relevant standardization bodies." That's right, so forget 3GPP, TISPAN, ATIS IIF, OMA, DBV, DNLA, HGI, ITU-T and stay tuned for OIF's three letter contribution. OIF's founding members are: AT&T, Ericsson, France Telecom, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Siemens Networks, Sony and Telecom Italia. Notice Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent's stunning absence. The OIF plans to accept new members at some point in the future, and is not European-centric, despite its membership's predominantly European roots.

Wireless IPTV

According to OIF's website, the group plans to define an end-to-end IPTV solution that is independent of access technologies--so wireless technologies like WiMAX will be considered.

Home Networking Technologies

The OIF indicates that the specifications by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), which address the interoperability of mobile, PC and CE devices seamlessly in the home, may be favored. "DLNA provides an ideal solution where consumers can enjoy digital media, video, audio and image, regardless of the source, with any device in the home."

IMS will be key to the OIF's specifications

The OIF's FAQ site also makes it clear that IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) based infrastructure and services will be strongly considered "as candidate elements for its specification," most "especially in managed networks."

Why do we need another standards body?

The OIF says it is needed for four reasons: 1) It consists of key global players in telecom services, network infrastructure and consumer electronics. 2) No other standards body seeks to address the complete IPTV solution. 3) The Forum will focus on implementing these standards in a timely manner and will tailor them for the actual services and device developments. 4) The Forum will work with existing standards bodies to address those specs that need enhancing.

Closing remarks

Lack of interoperability is, of course, a huge barrier for adoption of services and a limiting factor on a service's capabilities. The majority of the IPTV industry will welcome OIF with open arms, since it marks the first move toward an open IPTV value chain. With Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent on the sidelines though, you have to wonder how effective the OIF will be in the U.S. Verizon has stated publicly that it is evaluating whether to join OIF, but it's already the chair of the IPTV Interoperability Forum. - Brian