|Topic:||IPTV – open issues|
|Organisation:||Broadband Services Forum|
Helmut Leopold is the Chairman of the Broadband Services Forum. He is also the Managing Director of Platform and Technology Management at Telekom Austria. He worked previously at Alcatel, where he served as a research engineer at Alcatel’s ELIN Research Center, specialising in high performance networking and multimedia communications. Mr Leopold is the Vice President of the Austrian Research Center Forschungszentrum Telekommunikation Wien (FTW), and President of the IPV6 Task Force in Austria. Helmut Leopold has been actively involved in European projects in broadband (ESPRIT, RACE, ACTS, IST and COST) and in international standardization (ETSI), as well as in various task forces in telecommunication programmes of the Austrian government. He has lectured on broadband communications at the University of Technology in Vienna for many years, and has been evaluator in the R&D programmes of the European Commission. Mr Leopold holds a Degree in Electronics and Communications from the Technical College HTBLV Rankweil, Austria and a Degree in Computer Science from the University of Technology in Vienna.
IPTV, Internet Protocol television, a quickly growing force in home entertainment, uses DSL, digital subscriber line, technology to deliver television programming to the home via the existing public telephone network. Traditional telephone operating companies see this as a way to compete with the cable TV companies that are starting to compete with them by offering inexpensive voice services. IPTV can provide time-shifted and on-demand programming inexpensively, and is ideal for the distribution of user-generated content to local community or special interest groups.
Internet Protocol television, IPTV, services are proliferating all over the world and operators face a variety of challenges according to their specific local market and competitive conditions. However, there are a number of open issues – such as network capabilities, standardisation, cost-effectiveness, security, service differentiation, disruptive tendencies and new business models – that are common to all global providers. Network capabilities Network capacity is one of the main issues facing the provision of IPTV services. The current trend is towards homes with multiple TVs and PCs; these make unprecedented demands upon network capabilities. Yet, this is a natural cycle, with technological development always responding to market requirements in a mutual dependency. New technologies such as ADSL2+, asymmetric digital subscriber line 2 +, and VDSL2, very high-speed digital subscriber line 2, allow higher bandwidths than classical ADSL. ADSL2+, for instance, enables STDV, standard TV quality, per household. Fibre to the curb, FTTC with VDSL2, the next step in infrastructure evolution, enables HDTV, high definition TV, video quality. However, the challenge is to build a large and solid enough customer base, sufficient to recoup the costs of the rollout of new infrastructure. At the same time, the further development of encryption technologies will help reduce bandwidth requirements and therefore counteract rising capacity demands. The latest encoding technique, MPEG 4, will allow for the widespread deployment of new IPTV services at low cost and contribute to reaching a critical mass of users. Standardisation Standardisation is imperative for the development of a worldwide mass-market in low-cost IPTV services, but standardisation processes are very time-consuming. Until now, all IPTV service operators have deployed their own ‘home-grown’ solutions, but the industry is making a concerted effort to push standardisation, which will allow for mass integration and interoperability. To achieve this, critical issues such as technology maturity, technology availability, cost-effectiveness and the mass-market potential of appropriate customer premise equipment, CPE, need to be addressed. In this transitional phase, the main challenge is to find a balance between flexibility and non-optimised investments in technologies that might prove obsolete over the long term. Cooperation with the industry leaders in the IPTV business is crucial to choose the best options based on present availability, with a view to updating and upgrading technologies on an ongoing basis. In other words, we need to ensure that a standardised approach to IPTV is ‘future-proofed’. Content security Content security is also one of the most critical issues for IPTV. Content has an extremely high market value and it is critically important that an IPTV service provider can guarantee secure network platforms. The choice of the right content protection solution is imperative to conclude negotiations successfully throughout the content acquisition process. Most content creators opt to distribute content only to service providers that adhere to proper levels of content and network security. Without IPTV security, service providers cannot live up to the expectations of both customers and content creators in terms of availability, level of quality and exclusivity when a premium is requested. Illegal free content redistribution, content theft through unauthorised access, video or network outages or congestion will jeopardize the value of content and of the entertainment experience as a whole. Ultimately, this may result in non-payment of services, in customer churn and in the reluctance of content distributors to enter into business with ‘unreliable’ telcos. IPTV services via DSL-networks are potentially superior to other TV distribution architectures in terms of security. IPTV infrastructure based on broadband access has an inherently higher security level than traditional distribution media such as satellite and cable. Satellite and cable infrastructures distribute the same content to all customers and need encryption solutions to provide exclusive content. In contrast, DSL-based content delivery networks function like a dedicated channel with high security capability. The three main pillars of security in terms of IPTV services are confidentiality, integrity and accessibility, CIA. Confidentiality refers to control and authorisation of access to content. Integrity refers to the protection of content in its original form, i.e. Digital Right Management, DRM. Accessibility guarantees that content is accessible under any condition, which is quite a challenging undertaking given the performance requirements of IPTV. Compliance with all of these requirements is a must. Content as service differentiator In order to stay successful telcos have to re-evaluate continuously what kind of services customers want and how to deliver them. Content as major service differentiator is a new phenomenon. Telcos have to re-think their old business models in order to meet the demands of tomorrow’s information and entertainment-hungry society. The range of multimedia, broadband entertainment services continues to grow, but customer reaction tells us that self-generated content, and content for small interest groups, will play an especially important role for the future success of IPTV. We have devoted intensive efforts to understanding buying patterns and consumer profiles. Identifying the role of IPTV within a wider television industry is crucial. Our objective is to take a long-term view and work hard on the types of technologies and content that will attract users. We have learned that one of the unique selling propositions of IPTV is content that appeals to small interest groups. We believe that communicating to micro-level audiences with highly personalised, emotionally and socially relevant content could be the role for IPTV going forward. This will change the nature of advertising and will have a disruptive effect on the broadcasting industry as a whole. One of the sources of information in understanding self-generated content has been Buntes Fernsehen, a pilot project realized by Telekom Austria in a small rural community in Upper Austria. Telekom Austria provided the citizens with an ADSL-based distribution platform to generate and watch content generated by themselves and the local community. The project saw citizens turning into content producers and aggregators, addressing their personal community and up-loading their own content via a feedback channel to the distribution platform provided by the operator. In addition to locally relevant content, both the ability to provide robust interactivity and a good user interface are fundamental elements in developing a successful interactive IP television service. We see IPTV opening up opportunities for the way in which communities address local issues and problems – it is a good platform for local politics and lobbying. Content addressing local issues can be a very effective way to raise awareness, foster discussions and influence the decision-making process within the community. The future of IPTV will also rely upon its success as a business tool, especially for small and medium enterprises, SMEs. We believe that IPTV will provide local and niche businesses with powerful tools and a unique platform to address highly relevant micro audiences in a very cost-effective way. Innovation potential of IPTV: new business models IPTV is also posing unprecedented challenges in terms of new business models since it has a disruptive impact on traditional media businesses, which in turn have come under extreme pressure to modernise themselves. IPTV is boosting innovation, improving customer convenience on an ongoing basis and creating sustainable success for companies. In the past, the content industry was sceptical about IPTV services. It was convinced that traditional business models were viable enough and needed no reengineering. Today the situation is evolving quickly, and the proliferation of IPTV applications opens up brand-new opportunities. The content industry has recognised the potential of such new IP-based TV services as an additional source of revenue generation, and is willing to collaborate with service providers to explore new content distribution channels, enter new markets and forge new partnerships. Moreover, time-shifted TV and video on demand, VoD, style content distribution that bring commercial-skipping capabilities, user-generated content and niche programmes, require new, specific, advertising formats. The challenge is to find solutions that can be viable in the arena of global competition. Finally, IPTV can provide bundles of different applications. These may include a selection of digital music channels, gaming on demand, home video conferencing or remote home video monitoring, as well as interactive services for special interest groups in the areas of e-health, e-government and e-learning. As previously mentioned, self-generated content with high emotional relevance is also seen as a ‘killer application’ for IPTV. These additional features not only offer a great measure of differentiation from the competing solutions, but are also revenue drivers that provide service providers the opportunity to ‘up-sell’ and, at the same time, increase customer loyalty. Key players in the long run: telcos versus broadcasters It is of crucial importance to embrace IPTV as early as possible, even if not all the technical issues have been resolved. We will only know in the long run whether IPTV providers will be able to break the domination of the traditional content and broadcasting industries and turn into media distributors, or if they will simply become access providers. This exciting age of IPTV promises to keep us in suspense a little while longer.