Electronic Design

IPTV Gets Ready For Prime Time

If you believe all the hype, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) is the greatest development in television in decades. Movies and other video programming, including high definition (HD), can be pumped out to the public via broadband Internet connections—including DSL lines and wireless links. Such systems now can compete with cable-TV companies, bringing competition to the video-on-demand (VOD) business and creating even newer video programming sources.

Thousands of articles, talks, conferences, newsletters, blogs, and other sources gave IPTV the big push during the past year. They all touted how IPTV will let you watch TV on your PC or laptop, and when home-networking technologies are improved enough, it will be streamed to your big screen TV as well. But where is IPTV? Can you get it right now? Well, it depends on where you live.

AT&T’s U-verse system in San Antonio, Texas, uses fiber to a neighborhood DSLAM box that then distributes IPTV to subscribers via VDSL (very high-speed digital subscriber line). Does it work? You bet. It provides many channels of HDTV and VOD downloads. Some of the initial subscribers say it isn’t perfect, but it offers truly satisfying HD video.

Verizon’s FiOS system is true fiber to the home (FTTH), but it isn’t exactly IPTV. Its structure is a mix of technologies that deliver HDTV in a way like that of cable companies. It also has received high marks.

These trials, plus the continued success of the cable-TV companies, says that IPTV is going to have to be fiber-delivered. That means either FTTH with a passive optical network (PON) or some hybrid like that used by cable companies and AT&T. Not much else is fast enough.

Also, companies need to resolve the very long video download times (hours in most cases!) as well as the long times it takes to switch channels. But we will indeed get IPTV. Some refinements are necessary before it’s ready for prime time, but it does work.

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