IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) delivers television programming to households via a broadband connection using Internet protocols. It requires a subscription and IPTV set-top box, and offers key advantages over existing TV cable and satellite technologies. IPTV is typically bundled with other services like Video on Demand (VOD), voice over IP (VOIP) or digital phone, and Web access, collectively referred to as Triple Play.
Because IPTV arrives over telephone lines, telephone companies are in a prime position to offer IPTV services initially, but it is expected that other carriers will offer the technology in the future. IPTV promises more efficient streaming than present technologies, and therefore theoretically reduced prices to operators and subscribers alike. However, it also adds many advantages that may play into market pricing.
One of the advantages of IPTV is the ability for digital video recorders (DVRs) to record multiple broadcasts at once. According to Alcatel, one leading provider, it will also be easier to find favorite programs by using "custom view guides." IPTV even allows for picture-in-picture viewing without the need for multiple tuners. You can watch one show, while using picture-in-picture to channel surf!
IPTV viewers will have full control over functionality such as rewind, fast-forward, pause, and so on. Using a cell phone or PDA, a subscriber might even utilize remote programming for IPTV. For example, if a dinner function runs longer than expected, you don't have to miss your favorite program. Just call home and remotely set the IPTV box to record it.
However, the real advantage of IPTV is that it uses Internet protocols to provide two-way communication for interactive television. One application might be in game shows in which the studio audience is asked to participate by helping a contestant choose between answers. IPTV opens the door to real-time participation from people watching at home. Another application would be the ability to turn on multiple angles of an event, such as a touchdown, and watch it from dual angles simultaneously using picture-in-picture viewing.
One can also receive Web service notifications while watching IPTV for things such as incoming email and instant messages. If you IPTV is packaged with digital phone, Caller ID might pop up on screen as your telephone rings.
IPTV is already growing in the international market, with providers in many countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In the United States SBC, reportedly purchased a software delivery system for IPTV services from Microsoft in 2004 for $400 million dollars. Alcatel is working with Microsoft to develop a "global solution" for IPTV services, and Verizon has also made a deal with Microsoft for IPTV software.