Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/28/iptv_solving_home_wiring_problem/

IPTV/VoD: solving the home wiring problem

PLC unplugged

By Alex Cameron

Posted in Networks, 28th March 2006 10:18 GMT

Industry comment If you’re a survey junkie, you no doubt love the sheer onslaught of silly press activity that’s been happening recently in technology world. IPTV, the all-healing panacea, is so hot almost everyone wants to do it despite not having given a lot of thought to the real delivery issues that it will involve for them. The most absurd surveys were conducted by Harris and Accenture – both offering contradictory results that weren’t a lot of help to anyone.

The latest earth-shattering news from our favourite black hole for public money is that consumers don’t know what "IPTV" is. Profound, until you realise that they don’t know what DVB is either, but they still buy digital TV. Money-guzzling consultancy one, common sense, zero. Almost as useful as mobile providers realising the killer app for 3G is voice, or telco networks deciding on interoperability principles when they are intent on using Microsoft’s IPTV Edition platform.

The world is moving very, very rapidly for ISPs all over the world. Operators are charging down the road to next-generation IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) networks, and consumers are eating up bandwidth like their very lives depend on it. Telcos are becoming cable companies, broadcasters are becoming P2P networks and consumers are dazzled by the choice of the many providers that market consolidation is well underway.

No longer is it satisfactory to provide just broadband connectivity, and keep up-selling capacity – even with BT's latest Max range of products that go up to the full line-rate of 8Mbps, vanilla DSL has already been superseded by ADSL2+ in the LLU world. There is already chatter about hopping over that to go straight to VDSL2, which can offer up to 100Mbps. All of these last mile technologies are great, but if you don’t have the backhaul network, you might as well be on dial-up.

The great change telcos and ISPs are facing is one that strikes at the heart of their business. Most are content never to speak with the great unwashed public, and if you look closely, you’ll see that a large proportion give no contact details for themselves and offer little, unsatisfactory, or no customer support. Homechoice has once again been the first into a brave new world, and despite a number of direction changes has settled on a course that all ISPs need to follow. It now describes itself as providing a "digital home network"”, and nothing could be more succinct in industry terms. Now it's all about what you do with your connection, the value-added services you layer onto your basic connectivity products to differentiate yourself because ISPs are evolving into companies that power a customer’s home network. The vast majority of connecting hardware and services that give the raison d’etre for wiring up the house are delivered by them – broadband routers/switches, voice over IP, set-top boxes and more.

What this means is choosing an ISP is a lot more than just switching providers at the exchange level. As networks scramble to lock customers into loyalty to their brand, potential subscribers will be walking into a relationship with a company that provides their telephone, television, media services and home automation services, on top of the basic broadband connection that powers them all. And this is not a bad thing, as we will explore later on. Consumers need guidance as to how to create and manage their home broadband networks.

Unfortunately, two distinct things currently stand in the way of a beautiful and harmonious future of converged multimedia services – the first being usage-based charging, and the great evil, wires-only broadband installation. The industry ridiculed Wanadoo when they mandated the use of a LiveBox for all their customers, but the joke's on us. Wires-only packages may appear to reduce support costs at first glance, but because their flexibility allows unmitigated chaos in terms of what CPE gets used (routers, USB modems etc) or how the home is wired, ultimately it's created more long-term problems than it has solved.

The challenge awaiting operators is the tangled mess that is a consumer’s house – the wild unknown, and generally referred to as the "home wiring problem". The issue is composed of three sub-branches – quality of service (QoS), connectivity distribution between rooms and standardising a generic future-proofed home network architecture. The underlying difficulty when addressing issues generated by Joe Public is that up until now what exists beyond the front door is entirely arbitrary, that is to say that every home is different. Similarities exist, but the way it’s all put together is a random, scrambled chaos that is going to cost a lot of time and money to organise at mass-market scale. The market can’t be left alone to sort itself out either when it comes this issue, as much as operators would like that.

The fundamental problem for ISPs is how to connect an IP set-top box to a broadband router so that it can receive relayed video and make requests across the network. Apparently easy at first glance as each IP set-top box comes with Ethernet as standard, but much more difficult when you consider that half of your residential customers have USB modems (which aren’t appropriate for triple play services), and the other half keep their gateway box in either the study or hall. That’s fine for wirelessly networking PCs, but doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to supplying video as you need Ethernet. The next era of the broadband home needs to be able to connect to a reliable and high-bandwidth broadband network in every room of the house, toilet included.

The most popular setups for the 70 per cent of homes that now have digital TV in the UK have, firstly, Sky Digital as the primary TV platform seconded with analogue in other rooms, secondly they have multiple Freeview set-top boxes. Sky offers a heavily priced 'multi-room' product that can be used to copy and/or relay the main RF signal across the house to additional set-top boxes, and broadband-based TV needs this feature as standard if it is to compete with what’s on the market already. Subscribers need to be able to watch different channels in different rooms and to be able to view the same channel or video that’s being tuned into in more than one room.

Portability and so-called 'place-shifting' has proved itself to be extremely compelling amongst early-adopters. Having your favourite TV programme or music video follow you around the house (or even around the world) is relatively easy, and infinitely flexible. The only real configuration issue that a home network has in most circumstances is whether it has native support for multicast protocols (PIM, IGMP etc).

All this technical amphetamine is great, but in a world where prices are rising above inflation, salaries aren’t rising to meet expenditure and personal debt is at an unprecedented level, there is a greater economic concern overshadowing the IPTV market. If we carry on as we are, most people aren’t going to be able to fit in their own living rooms for all the electronic devices we have sold them. Why should they buy a new IPTV service?

We will reach a point where consumers will pause and ask themselves exactly whether our whizzbang amazing new IPTV plaything is good enough value to justify subscribing to it, or purchasing things from it. They paid up to £1000 for each PC they own, £500 per TV, £100 per DVD player, £100 for a router, and now we’re asking them to pay yet another £150 for a IP set-top box. If wiring is a problem, we’ll need them to pay £150 on top of that for PLC adaptors. We have to ask ourselves what is practical for most of our customers.

Sky’s incredible sleight of hand under Tony Ball's leadership of 'giving away' CPE was the genius that built their subscription base in the UK. Some budget-fiddling through cunning amortisation has allowed them to soak up most of the high street, just as Freeview has done through not having a subscription to fork out for every month in perpetuity. P2P networks are spiralling in growth because they offer free movies and music. IPTV needs a killer commercial angle.

ISPs are bleeding from everywhere when it comes to their margins and most can’t see a way to justify swallowing the additional cost of an IP set-top box as they are already on shaky ground. Even the leasing model used by the likes of MaLigne.TV in France is difficult to implement here because of the cash flow implications. Being a set-top box manufacturer right now is hard, but being an ISP is much harder.

Back in the early days of DSL, operators came up with the great idea of self-install broadband packages – 'wires-only' products that needed no engineers to be called out for installation, and offered the freedom for customers to choose their own equipment setup. It’s worked well so far, but momentum’s been so fast that we’ve neglected to see that we’re about to run out of road as we approach a very large cliff ahead.

The curse of every analyst and planner of IPTV services is the lack of standardisation of home CPE – it's a hell that's every bit as painful as it looks. The range of router/gateway manufacturers is enormous as the industry has deepened with the general uptake of broadband. If you want to see an executive rip his shirt and howl at the moon in frustration, just bring the subject up over coffee.

You can expect to find different models from Belkin, Netgear, Linksys, D-Link, Actiontec and many more. And the bad news is that despite being built to comply with standards (PPPoA, QoS etc), they all have a complicated, unsynchronised mess of different features that don't have a hope of being pulled together cohesively. Most desperately need firmware upgrades, have ugly, incomprehensible and unusable admin interfaces, break down with alarming regularity and are OEM tin cans made in China from the cheapest components available.

The one feature they need, QoS, either isn’t there, or is implemented in a meaningless way. The router is the broker of all services into the home – a bottleneck and control gateway that is crucial to the satisfactory deployment and maintenance of high-value services.

This chaos needs to be resolved somehow, which generally means mandating, and only supporting certain hardware. The biggest ISPs use this (not having to go out and choose what equipment to use in your home) as a selling point, but the smaller providers work at recruiting the more specialised market sectors – small businesses, and early-adopting techheads. BT tends to enforce the use of their own router, Wanadoo requires you to use a LiveBox, and Homechoice supply you with a set-top box that includes a DSL modem. In most other ISP customer bases, its unusual to find more than 15 per cent of the raw subscriber base that definitely use the same hardware. The flexibility of plurality has its limits, and change invokes them very quickly.

One of the first questions and preconceptions of those who are curious about IPTV is how similar it is to streaming video on the web, or 'Internet TV'. The answer is that the process of streaming the audio and video uses the same mechanism (RTP/RTSP), but the environment in which it is transported is strictly controlled by an ISP, never going onto the public internet. Being unicast at crappy resolution, streaming video on the web is abjectly awful and bottlenecked at every point – even the bravest of souls is tempted to commit hari-kari when the dreaded "Buffering…" appears on screen. No matter whether it's Real, Windows Media, Quicktime, Flash or anything else, it’s always dreadful. IPTV has a barrier to climb in the form of this particular preconception before anything else.

You can’t be watching TV and have your picture break up because someone else in the house has switched on their BitTorrent client and starting eating up all the bandwidth. Video signals over IP are extremely sensitive to jitter, packet loss, delay and many other conditions that exist in a normal network. This isn't such a problem when browsing web pages, or even for phone calls. People's tolerance of problems on their TV is very, very low in comparison to their PC. In fact, most even expect their computer to do something unpredictable and leave them totally confused (the infamous BSOD, or "Blue Screen Of Death"” being a prime example of this). The game isn't uptime of five nines, it's 100 per cent reliability. You don’t get to mess up even once.

Different types of TV signal from different broadcasters have differing bandwidth requirements. Most IPTV is now transmitted or encoded in an MPEG-4 codec variant (H.264 or Windows Media 9 typically) at the highest possible quality. For standard definition this means 1-4Mbit/s, and 6-10Mbit/s in high definition. If you're prehistoric and still using MPEG-2, the figures are 4-6Mbit/s and 25-30Mbit/s respectively. Encoding can be done using an average bitrate (ABR), but is handled efficiently by intelligently determining when additional information is needed in the stream – for example water, cartoons, sports and high action sequences require enormous detail and therefore more bandwidth. Scenes where there is little movement (e.g. talking head-style discussion or still shots) need hardly any bandwidth.

Maths geniuses will have worked out by now that trying to get TV down a phone line is a lot easier using MPEG-4 and high line speed DSL connectivity than using MPEG-2 and plain old vanilla DSL. It can be a real struggle when most people's lines aren’t close enough to their exchange to have enough space to reliably handle digital TV. Standard DSL, such as the new BT Max product, does 8Mbit max as ATM line speed and nearer to 7Mbit/s at the IP layer. You can fit a 1 standard definition video stream in it with very little room for much else. ADSL2+ can handle 3 SD/2 HD channels and VDSL2 many, many more at close range (and ADSL2+ rates elsewhere). Both have the limitation of distance, but greater bandwidth at the last mile is always beneficial. No one who has ever deployed this technology will ever tell you that the beer-mat maths actually work in the real world.

The key issue here is reliability. Just because a connection can theoretically accept large quantities of real-time data doesn’t mean it will arrive properly. Rats chew through cables, water shorts out electric machinery and wiring suffers evil 'crosstalk' when it's bundled together in street cabinets. TCP as a protocol is extremely aggressive and will seek to consume the very maximum bandwidth it can, meaning controls are essential. A DSL signal is typically encapsulated using the ATM protocol (using PPPoA as the carrier layer) up to the front door, where it then is translated into IP by the home router. That has a larger implication when putting in controls – the last mile speaks a different language than the home and backhaul networks it is sandwiched between.

The controls we need to install on all parts of the network are collectively known as QoS (Quality Of Service) or "traffic-shaping". These techniques are used very crudely by many ISPs right now to discipline chronic downloaders who manage to consume more than 100GB per month in data transfer. The underlying theory is the same – partition the connection into separate untouchable virtual 'channels' according to the application the data to be grouped is intended for. In a typical triple play setup, we use 3 channels which are cleverly prioritised, those being video (3Mbit/s), voice (276Kbit/s) and data (unspecified, or just the rest).

They are often not in real-time, expanding and contracting as and when necessary (a good example being video on-demand, as it only needs heavy bandwidth for the duration of a film, as opposed to live TV which is continuous). This partitioning can be done in multiple ways, but over an ATM network it is done using permanent virtual circuits (PVCs, or sometimes just called virtual circuits, VCs), and in IP-based environments such as LANs and MPLS networks, we use virtual LAN grouping (VLANs).

The trick for operators is how to get ATM and IP to play well together, which normally entails using a hybrid solution that maps ATM PVCs to IP VLANs. The ultimate goal is to move everything to IP by implementing a full IMS environment (PPPoE), which means most of UK DSL supplier community will have to wait for 21CN to be completed before they can migrate their own networks. Homechoice and KIT have both attempted to do almost everything they can as far away from a customer's home as possible. Both exclusively implement QoS in IP in their DSLAM and central office switches rather than cross streams with ATM, meaning the traffic that arrives in your home is already sorted and prioritised before it reaches your router and no filtering is required. DSLAMs are also crucial pieces in the delivery chain that suffer bottlenecking like no other, and are designed for aggregation.

There is another argument for exclusively using IP, which is derived from the concern that PVCs are simply not inherently scalable enough when you need a minimum of three per home. Further along down the line, we will need to partition further and possibly far more dynamically. Gamers have different requirements from office workers, as download fiends do to grannies just getting the hang on this 'interweb' thang. Quality of service engineering may lead to more tailored and high-performance lifestyle connectivity packages.

There is still much spirited debate amongst research scientists as to whether video can be better delivered at layers lower than IP across optical networks. Almost all networks use a multi-layer topology model called the Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model (or OCI model) to illustrate and describe how the transport traffic and function. The OCI model is composed of seven layers and is a very useful start when trying to understand the nature of transporting video over DSL.

Everything done on the backhaul network or in the DSLAM needs to be mirrored in the home network, which is very challenging to say the least. Once we prepare a standard QoS setup for our router/gateway to use, we need to consider how it administrates it between all the devices in the customer’s home. The dominant type of household that uses DSL is a family home, which despite the usual chaotic mess means that wiring has to respect the order of the nest. A customer's home can't have wiring all over the place, must be installed conveniently and be easy to maintain. Interior design is a key issue that almost no ISP seems to understand – it's even more foreign than the concept of 'customer service'.

There is an incredible opportunity for small local IT businesses to provide a call-out home wiring installation service on behalf of ISPs in the same way local TV servicemen and electricians work for Sky to install satellite equipment. It's not practical for big businesses with low margins to offer localised support when they need to consolidate their interests nationally.

Sending engineers to do installations is what most consumer industry pundits call "truck roll", and it's universally understood to be a very expensive activity that must be out-sourced or only used as a last resort. The biggest issue with self-install packages is not being able to deliver packages in the post as the recipient isn't present to sign for the goods that have been despatched (or CNP – 'customer not present'), and they are too big for the letterbox they need to go through.

Truck roll eats into profits like nothing else (especially as customers hate paying setup fees), but for the high-street it is unfortunately essential. The normal accountancy that pays for it is a relatively simple twiddling of the figures to amortise the immediate cost of the installation against the fees recouped across the subscriber's service lifespan. People like Sky have got this down to an art form as it is paid back in less than a year, but only the big names can afford it, as beside inflating customer acquisition costs, without a very understanding bank it kills cash flow dead. All the major brands use truck roll to alleviate as many support costs later on as they can – Sky, BT (broadband and the new Vision IPTV service), Homechoice, NTL, Telewest and more.

There are currently five choices for wiring up a customer's home so a TV signal can be carried between all the rooms: wireless/wi-fi, Ethernet/Cat-5/6 cabling, coaxial cables, home phoneline networking (HPNA – 128Mbit/s over telephone wiring) and Ethernet-over-powerline (e.g. HomePlug). All require additional cost and configuration of some kind. Soon after looking through all the options, it becomes apparent that we don't have the right tools in place to make IPTV the smooth, sweet and beautiful transition it could be. Most homes being built from scratch now directly wire optical cable to the front door and are channelling hollow pipes in walls that can accommodate wires of every variety. Importantly, there is nothing to say these techniques cannot be combined and mixed to achieve the same ends as favouring one standard mechanism.

Video needs a fat, stable connection, and wireless is useless for PCs, let alone for set-top boxes. Despite innovative technologies like those offered by Ruckus (based on sectoring and directional transmission control), thick walls, connection dropping, weak security, difficult configuration, interference and instability mean that for the foreseeable future this method of communication can only be used for PCs and browsing the internet. Using it as part of a hybrid distribution model is safe enough. Disregard and distrust anyone who says otherwise, as they clearly have never rolled out an IPTV network in anyone's house other than their own. Unless your wireless access point is in the same room as your TV and PC, you will struggle.

Messy cabling is the reason that the other options are not feasible – despite being cheap, LAN cabling (either 10/100 Cat-5 or GigE Cat-6), telephone wiring or coax cabling in a house that does not already have it installed is a nightmare of proportions most service providers cannot even bear to contemplate. If you’re married, you shouldn’t expect to be if you uproot your better half’s delicate interior design balance with thick Ethernet cabling.

If you are feeling defiant and own the property you live in, pick an unimportant wall and attempt to channel a hole through for holding new wiring (also with easy maintenance in mind too), and spend an afternoon proving the rest of us wrong. It will take 10mins before you accept that there is a distinct problem in adapting your home for high-speed broadband connectivity. Not every room will allow you to gracefully add to cable to it so it's effectively invisible.

Then what is the solution to this most integral of problems? Without fiber or Cat-6 already installed it is Ethernet-over-powerline, or PLC (powerline communication) technology. PLC products create an Ethernet network over your existing electricity cabling in your home without any need for additional hackery. This is accomplished by using adaptors that require no software drivers and simply plug into normal electricity/AC sockets in any room.

Each adaptor has an Ethernet socket on it from which you attach a standard Cat-5 network cable. To enable a very simple IPTV setup, one adaptor is plugged into the same double-plug electricity socket as the router (and also connected by network wire to the broadband router/switch), which instantly creates a local area network all over the house that any other device can now access with another adaptor. PLC adaptor number two is then popped behind the TV (probably in a plug board), and connected to the IP set-top box again by Ethernet cable.

PLC technology has an unfortunate legacy reputation from its shaky history. It suffers stigma and preconception which sadly does not reflect the extraordinary effort that has gone into making it such an amazing product. Its bigger brother, wide-area broadband-over-power lines (BPL) failed to take off as a competitor to ADSL and was ditched by almost every electricity company that tried to market it. Early products suffered from reliability issues that plague all disruptive new technology. Infamous stories of network connections dropping when fridges where opened and being very unreceptive to power-surging did little to help take-up of the fledgling product.

The good news is that nowadays, huge amounts of work have been undertaken to stabilise and standardise the technology. It's simply the most graceful and effective home wiring solution currently in existence, and the greatest morphine for wiring headaches. PLC adaptors require no install, no software drivers, and when you plug them in, they just work both transparently and flawlessly. Even the smallest of children and the stupidest of customers can install it.

Once one is plugged into a wall socket, a local area connection with broadband internet connectivity is available in every room in the house. They even feature built-in military-strength encryption as standard, unlike wireless. Nothing in technology is ever perfect, but PLC is proving to be a very close match to exactly what ISPs need.

There are many flavours of PLC technology and the respective bodies that are involved in managing industry standards (IEEE, Opera, UPA, HomePlug, ETSI etc), but the two most prominent are The HomePlug Powerline Alliance and Universal Powerline Association. Both organisations have a different chipset supplier that is the main manufacturer for their published standard – HomePlug technology is mostly made by the California-based Intellon, and UPA’s by DS2, headquartered in Spain.

Both create OEM chips that make networks capable of 200Mbps access, twice the speed of a normal Ethernet LAN. DS2’s technology has recently been adopted by Netgear, primarily due to the delay in ratifying the 200Mbps HomePlug AV standard. Most products that are already known (such as those offered by Devolo, who control 85 per cent of the European market) tend to be based on the HomePlug 1.0 standard, which offers 14Mbps in normal mode and 85Mbps in "turbo" mode.

But nothing comes without its baggage, and PLC technology is no exception. Despite wide support from the likes of Linksys, Motorola, Sony, Sharp and Conexant, HomePlug AV has been plagued with false starts and politicking. Everyone wants a slice of the pie as the technology’s flexibility makes it incredibly powerful. UPA gear has seen slow uptake from major brands. Adaptors typically need to be purchased from online outlets as the regulatory position is too ambiguous for high street retails to commit to their distribution.

They are also rather costly in comparison to wireless – HomePlug 85Mbps Turbo starter kits cost just over £100/$200 for two adaptors; like other network products rarely reach anywhere near their maximum speed and they must be plugged in before surge-protection equipment to work properly. DHCP negotiation needs to be more robust to ensure connection integrity, especially when an adaptor is unplugged and plugged in again.

PLC's CSMA/CD characteristics mean TV signals can travel badly, meaning any more than 2 signals can cause problems on the same network. Offices and blocks of flats require specific configurations to avoid neighbouring networks crashing into each other. Ofcom are also yet to clearly state whether the technology’s imaginary 'interference' problem means the products need licensing/taxation of some kind.

Moving forward, we won’t want to live in houses where every room is full of big PLC adaptors connected by sprawling wires to a hub or switch. Industries give birth to products that are messy just to get them to market as soon as they can, and eventually over time they mature and tidy themselves up. The long-term future needs a much bigger, high-level plan for digital living. The likes of Microsoft and Siemens call it the 'home ecosystem', which should immediately ring alarms on anyone’s bullshit detector.

Nobody wants to digitise their home for the sake of digitising – change needs a compelling reason. Homes need to be networking environments only when applications are there that need it. Applications won’t be created for home networks until they are installed and available in a large number of early adopters’ homes. The impetus and responsibility for this needs to be from ISPs and goes back to remodelling businesses from connectivity to digital home network provision.

Many different organisations are innovating new standards and technologies that we will adsorb into our homes to power new devices and services, all designed to captivate us and secure our consumer loyalty. Video conferencing, security systems, ubiquitous internet connectivity and home automation will allow evolve as value-added services derived from broadband in the next 10 to 20 years. Our job as technologists is slowly shifting from the laboratory to the living room, as consumers only adopt technology that they have has value to them in their ordinary lives. We often get carried away with in-fighting, speculating and assuming the rest of the planet is as excited by what we’re doing as we are.

Three technologies deserve special mention when it comes to emerging platforms for home broadband innovation, xPL, uPnP and DLNA. The first, xPL (eXtremely simPle protocoL) is a simple and powerful open home automation protocol for standardising the auto-discovery and configuration interface between home devices, for example, turning down the stereo when the phone rings through on your TV. uPnP (Universal Plug and Play, not to be confused with Plug-and-play for PC products) comes as standard on many broadband routers is a set of open peer-to-peer network protocols that allows devices to seamlessly interact with each other over a DHCP-controlled IP network. Lastly, DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is a very compelling group of technology companies aiming to promote standards for the interoperation of PCs, consumer electronic devices and mobile/handheld products.

The most amazing thing the consumer electronics industry could do at this moment in time is invest in PLC technology to make it of the nano genre rather than microprocessor it is now. PLC adaptors need to be implicitly built into all home devices so that as soon as they are plugged in, they have network connectivity and broadband access. That’s means IP addresses for TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, doors, VCRs, kettles, fridges, laptops, lights, stereos, kitchen utensils and just about everything we can care to name. With PLC built into all devices and/or their plugs, we have limitless possibility to innovate in the home. Right now I may not want send my toaster an text message, but in the future it would be nice to control my home across the world and store environment 'presets' when I make a romantic evening dinner for two.

As triple-play reaches banal status, excitement has moved to so-called n-play or 'multi-play' services that include setups that are similar to the NTL-Virgin deal to provide 'quadruple play' services. Telecoms companies want our homes flooded with wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPRS and 3G to make all our voice communications digital as VoIP traffic. ISPs are also beginning to offer home PBX systems with their call packages to differentiate and add value to simple voice offerings.

True gadget fiends amongst us now have different phone extensions in different rooms, local dialling in every country and music on-hold. While most of us are getting to grips with video calling on Skype, super-nerds outgrew things like their TiVo years ago and now own a Slingbox so they can watch their TV when they are thousands of miles away in a hotel room somewhere.

It's easy to procrastinate by second-guessing. IPTV and home broadband networks involve massive change and uncertainty in a complex and ruthless market. One mistake is being made in our industry more than any other every day – and that is to assume that just because IPTV as a set of technologies, and as an industry, isn’t perfect straight away that it won't happen or won't sell. As long as we stand around theorising, criticising and wondering nothing gets done. We need to look past this year and look to the next five to ten to understand how it will affect us all. IPTV will mature and straighten itself out like any other field, so its time to calm down, take a breath and consider the best way to ride the wave.

© Digital TX Ltd

Digital TX Limited is a London-based provider of technology and consultancy solutions for interactive digital television and broadband media. Alexander Cameron can be reached at alex.cameron@digitaltx.tv.

Alex is now offering a great value one-day workshop course on IPTV and Video On-Demand (VoD) specifically for web and media professionals. It can help you get up to speed on the latest technologies, content deals, operators and applications across the world, and offer immense value in identifying both new opportunities and threats for your business and personal career. If you would like more information, call Alex on 07986 373177 or email iptvworkshop@digitaltx.tv. Readers who quote The Register as their source will receive a 10 per cent discount on the course fees.