by Andre Gasiorowski
HHC Network (Helping Hand Coalition Network) and TBN Poland moving worldwide toward new broadcasting platform
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)
IPTV services may be classified into three main groups:
- Live television, with or without interactivity related to the current TV show;
- Time-shifted television: catch-up TV (replays a TV show that was broadcast hours or days ago), start-over TV (replays the current TV show from its beginning);
- Video on demand (VOD): browse a catalog of videos, not related to TV programming.
IPTV is distinguished from Internet television by its ongoing standardisation process and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.
“IPTV is defined as the secure and reliable delivery to subscribers of entertainment video and related services. These services may include, for example, Live TV, Video On Demand (VOD) and Interactive TV (iTV). These services are delivered across an access agnostic, packet switched network that employs the IP protocol to transport the audio, video and control signals. In contrast to video over the public Internet, with IPTV deployments, network security and performance are tightly managed to ensure a superior entertainment experience, resulting in a compelling business environment for content providers, advertisers and customers alike.”
A set-top box (STB) or set-top unit (STU) is an information appliance device that generally contains a TV-tuner input and displays output connects to a television set and an external source of signal, turning the source signal into content in a form that can then be displayed on the television screen or other display device. They are used in cable television, satellite television, and over-the-air television systems, as well as other uses.
Customer-premises equipment or customer-provided equipment (CPE) is any terminal and associated equipment located at a subscriber’s premises and connected with a carrier’s telecommunication channel at the demarcation point (“demarc”). The demarc is a point established in a building or complex to separate customer equipment from the equipment located in either the distribution infrastructure or central office of the communications service provider. CPE generally refers to devices such as telephones, routers, switches, residential gateways (RG), set-top boxes, fixed mobile convergence products, home networking adapters and Internet access gateways that enable consumers to access communications service providers’ services and distribute them around their house via a local area network (LAN).
In Europe, a set-top box does not necessarily contain a tuner of its own. A box connected to a television (or VCR) SCART connector is fed with the baseband television signal from the set’s tuner, and can have the television display the returned processed signal instead. In case of analogue pay-TV, this approach avoided the need for a second remote control. The use of digital television signals in more modern pay-TV schemes requires that decoding take place before the digital-to-analogue conversion step, rendering the video outputs of an analogue SCART connector no longer suitable for interconnection to decryption hardware. Standards such as DVB’s Common Interface and ATSC’s CableCARD therefore use a PCMCIA-like card inserted as part of the digital signal path as their alternative to a tuner-equipped set-top box.
In IPTV networks, the set-top box is a small computer providing two-way communications on an IP network and decoding the video streaming media. IP set-top boxes have a built-in home network interface that can be Ethernet, Wireless (802.11 g,n,ac), or one of the existing wire home networking technologies such as HomePNA or the ITU-T G.hn standard, which provides a way to create a high-speed (up to 1Gbit/s) local area network using existing home wiring (power lines, phone lines, and coaxial cables). In the US and Europe, telephone companies use IPTV (often on ADSL or optical fiber networks) as a means to compete with traditional local cable television monopolies.
This type of service is distinct from Internet television, which involves third-party content over the public Internet not controlled by the local system operator.
With the advent of flat-panel televisions, set-top boxes are now deeper in profile than the tops of most modern TV sets. Because of this, set-top boxes are often placed beneath televisions, and the term set-top box has become something of a misnomer, possibly helping the adoption of the term digibox. Additionally, newer set-top boxes that sit at the edge of IP-based distribution networks are often called net-top boxes or NTBs, to differentiate between IP and RF inputs. The Roku LT is around the size of a pack of cards and delivers Smart TV to conventional sets.
The distinction between external tuner or demodulator boxes (traditionally considered to be “set-top boxes”) and storage devices (such as VCR, DVD, or disc-based PVR units) is also blurred by the increasing deployment of satellite and cable tuner boxes with hard disk, network or USB interfaces built-in. Devices with the capabilities of computer terminals, such as the WebTV thin client, also fall into the grey area that could invite the term “NTB”.