Pixelmetrix's Amit Sood on the challenges facing IPTV

Challenges of an Emerging TV revolution: IP Television Amit Sood Product Manager, Pixelmetrix Corporation INTRODUCTION The Telecommunication companies in the past years have launched broadband services as a viable replacement for the declining switched voice business. To derive maximum benefit from the huge investments made, there is a compelling need to maximize capacity usage of these networks. Voice and pure data services alone are not able to justify the return on investments made for the deployment of these IP driven networks. IP Television is creating the hype and excitement, the industry witnessed back in the 1950’s seeing the growth of now-huge telecommunication networks. IPTV is in the phase of transitioning from an embryonic to a mature state. Every new technology brings with it new challenges: The challenge to create a robust business model for the technology to thrive in this ever-changing world. The need to utilize the power of IP and Digital television together needs reconciliation of technologies designed for best-effort and real time delivery of data respectively. The immediate goal however, is to provide user-centric IP services keeping in line with customers demand for total end to end QoE (Quality of Experience). The success of IPTV lies in the adoption of best practices in service planning, deploying, managing and maintaining the service. WHAT DOES IPTV HAVE TO OFFER Telco operators are able to implement on IPTV and traditional services already available on rival technologies (e.g., satellite) such as: • Free to air broadcast channels • Premium broadcast channels • Radio channels • Live events (in pay-per-view or included in base subscription) • Parental control • Interactive electronic program guide (EPG) and short EPG • near video on demand (VoD). • STB–based personal video recording (PVR) and time-shifted television (TST) Thanks to the high-speed connection and to the “return channel” always on, telcos are also able to implement interactive services such as the following: • Real-time video on demand, which grants customers access to a library of titles and enables them to watch their favorite movies, with DVD quality and VCR commands • T-Mail, which allows customers to access their e-mail accounts from the television • T-Browsing, which allows customers to surf the Web from the television • T-Services, which enable shopping or banking services on TV • T-SMS and T-MMS • Gaming (stand-alone or group gaming) • Gambling On-line • Network PVR and network TST • Voting and polling (these service are available also on satellite, but there is great resistance from customers to plug the STB into a phone line) • Interactive advertising THE CHALLENGES FOR TELCO OPERATORS The challenges that face the Telco community today in adopting IPTV today can be classified into two major categories; The Business Models and Technology limitations. The lack of successful IPTV business deployments at scale, the sizing of business details (business driving applications) pose as threats and make it quintessential for the Telco to take charge upfront and define a robust, scalable business model. The bringing together of specialized skills of content management and Broadband services competency is another challenge for the Telco community today while deciding on a business model. The lack of media industry expertise hinders the Telco in being able to define how to price services, define ARPU(Average revenue per User) and retain customer loyalty. On the technology front, non-standardization of technologies – the delivery mechanisms to the delivery codec keep the Telco in dark about what to adopt. Most IPTV installations in the past have relied upon consortium partners coming together with bits and pieces of the complete content delivery network (with their specific expertise) trying to integrate and make the IPTV network function as a single service unit. Every IPTV network in the world has been designed on proprietary flavors of established technologies. Integration loopholes have led to the premature end to a lot of IPTV networks with many not able to make daylight threatened by these problems. MONITORING OF IP TELEVISION NETWORKS The challenges make a strong case for extensive test and monitoring processes to be adopted in the deployment and the operational cycles of an IPTV network. The End-to-End monitoring of IP networks, from checking the integrity of content at ingest to the intended delivery to the final customer is a must. The IPTV network needs to be monitored Geographically (across different locations and identified monitoring points within the network), over Time (The need to monitor yesterday is as important it is today and will be equally important tomorrow also, it should check problems in the transmission chain happening now and for problems that are expected to come over a period of time) and most importantly the Protocol Axis (It is essential that not only the integrity of the signal is maintained, if the content is reaching the subscriber, but to maintain the service integrity, is the right and expected content reaching the subscriber is the biggest issue to address) The monitoring system should act a single console telemetry consolidation system to form as an audit point for the network owners and for all parties with stake in the successful delivery of content, from content aggregators, content owners, network equipment manufacturers and IPTV systems vendors. CONCLUSION: The Telco’s today see big opportunity in IP television and are willing to expand looking especially at their lower ARPU’s from pure data and voice services. IPTV, with opportunities, also brings with it challenges and threats. The defining of Business goals and technology limitations need to be addressed by adoption of complete end to end monitoring and testing methodologies for IPTV networks. The objective is clear, to be able to increase revenues and generate customer loyalty, all achievable through the desired functioning of the content delivery network, for which, preventive monitoring is a must.