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Why the world has lost interest in IPTV services

Is it feasible to deliver TV-quality video over IP?

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There are two ways for these to come together into a blended service. Either a simple software platform will emerge that will bring all the relevant EPG data and manage multiple DRM schemes on multiple devices, or a proper quadruple play service can come into play.

In the quadruple play scheme of things, the same content on the all the formats could be available at different locations and through different networks but put together by an ambitious and smart cellco. A quadruple play company running an IPTV network, also outputting content to the web and also featuring mobile TV or mobile web video services, might just be able to give cohesion to multiple parallel services, while at the same time keeping content costs down, because each customer is only buying one copy of each piece of content.

But while IPTV and Quad play carriers struggle to manage scalability issues, screen jitter, billing problems, IMS installation, HD teething problems, packet loss and latency issues, all things that have hampered AT&T over the past year and a half, which makes its IPTV service unwatchable and unsaleable, the web pioneers are working on the principle of making the entire business of web video more and more like experiencing IPTV.

On an ADSL2+ line at 20 Mbps, with no Quality of Service, using Macromedia Flash video to view web held content, at a viewing speed of 1 Mbps, compressed in H.264, using multiple pass encoders, the output could be good enough to transfer to your TV screen, your handset or your PC and it will look fine on any of them. The only trouble is that the internet itself, or your ISP, would conspire to offer a variable performance for that end to end video stream, which is why Flash video will soon be supported by multiple peer to peer delivery mechanisms that break video into brief 10 second chunks of video and send them in parallel. This way only the last mile represents any contention for data throughput, and on ADSL2+ or even ADSL, that's a non-issue unless you are trying to run HD.

The resulting services will rapidly build up into an online footprint that threatens to disrupt the continued delivery of IPTV quality services in the home by allowing quality video to travel over the top of both the web and video web. The last step that remains is for Flash video streaming to be supported from your PC to your TV and then all of the three screens will work off a single service and none of them will be IPTV.

Meanwhile, Telcos will remain obsessed with high quality, well supported services which focus purely on a single screen, and as a result they will miss the revolution entirely, while spending vast amounts of money they don't have on new networks, in the process building up large debt pools that will weigh them down in the financial markets.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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