Another big theme at this week's IPTV World Forum is making sure the end-to-end experience is a good one for the customer. There are many signs that joined up thinking is becoming de rigueur - somehow it is never the starting point.
As digital tv news. reports, the ITU-T's work on IPTV standards has progressed recently, with a slew of specifications agreed, digital tv news.
The work has moved from the foundation documents containing high-level architectures and frameworks to detailed specifications that can be implemented in products.
The report commented, "A standardized IPTV environment could mean an end to walled-garden approaches where subscribers are limited to content from a particular service provider. It would for example make it easier for ex-pat subscribers to consume content from their countries of origin." Another familiar theme in telecoms.
The standards consented or approved recently include Recommendation ITU-T H.720, which gives the overview of the architecture and functional components of an IPTV terminal device and provides a high-level description of the functionality needed to support IPTV services.
Also ITU-T H.721, which describes and specifies the functionalities of IPTV terminal devices such as set-top boxes and digital TV sets for IPTV basic services. The Recommendation also takes into consideration such conditions on content delivery as QoS.
Below is a list of recent ITU standards approved or "˜consented' by ITU-T's Study Group 16 from digital tv news:
Rec. H.701 - Content Delivery Error Recovery for IPTV services
Rec. H.721 - IPTV Terminal Device: Basic Model
Rec. H.760 - Overview of Multimedia Application Frameworks for IPTV
Rec. H.761 - Nested Context Language (NCL) and Ginga-NCL for IPTV
Rec. H.720 - Overview of IPTV terminal devices and end systems
Rec. H.750 - High-level specification of metadata for IPTV services
Rec. H.622.1 - Architecture and functional requirements for home networks supporting IPTV services
In addition a Technical Paper has been approved that addresses the use of audio coding in services delivered over IPTV.
Another key element is connecting up the home for IPTV without more wiring. Being existing wiring - electrical cabling, coax and copper - is a great solution. Telecom Trends International predicts that annual sales of the Broadband over Powerline (BPL) market will reach $5.3 billion by 2010.
In December, the ITU approved PHY (physical layer) specs for the ITU-T G.9960 (formerly known as the G.hn for home gateway) work. While IEEE (and HomePlug/Intellon in particular) viewed this as their achievement in establishing a single powerline specification, DS2's business development manager, RamÃ³n Garcia, had other ideas at the IPTV show this week.
He says DS2 is developing technology that will allow next generation powerline products to operate at a peak data rate of 400Mbps (instead of the current 200Mbps). This will enable the development of new HD multimedia applications, such as multi-channel HD-IPTV delivery or multi-room personal video recording.
Alan Delaney, business development director, IPTV, Tandberg Television (part of Ericsson) highlighted the growing importance of the customer experience being a two-way thing. His company launched a two-way networking product, IPTV Application Platform (IAP) last September so that users can combine interaction with apps such as YouTube and Twitter with IPTV consumption.
He stresses that the ultimate aim is to be able to deliver any content to any platform, whether a PC, TV or mobile and says the Open IPTV Forum is key to attaining this goal. Tandberg and more than 50 other companies are signed up members, including equipment vendors, operators, CPE suppliers, systems integrators 3GPP, ETSI's TISPAN et al.
Delaney says, "We need to move away from the technology and focus on the services, whether they are over-the-top, mobile or the home gateway." And of course, making some money out of IPTV.
Delaney stresses how two-way IPTV enables advertisers to target their spend better than ever before because of being able to track the users' behaviour and preferences, and points to the fact that Comcast in the US has already served several billion ads on this basis. telecomseurope.net will be following this up.
Finally, there's the aspect of making sure the whole lot works properly, which is were test company Spirent comes in. Jack Douglass Director Video Technologies at Spirent, explains, "With IPTV, there is typically a glitch or event of some kind per show - whereas if we were at the 99.999 standard long expected in telecoms, we'd be a five events every 500,000 minutes. There's a way to go."
Its new test suite is in trials with unnamed Tier 1 and 2 operators in the US and Europe. We'll report back.