ITU has been busy pioneering a raft of new standards for the technology, which is set to transform global viewing habits in coming years. Experts agreed that stable global standards will be key to take-up of IPTV, avoiding costly and confusing ‘format wars’ and reduced choice for consumers.
IPTV will deliver all the advantages of traditional ‘linear’ TV in terms of service quality, combined with the many advantages the Internet offers in terms of choice and interactivity. It should not be confused with web streaming, because images are not delivered over the Internet, but rather to homes through a ‘managed network’. That means TV programmes do not have to vie with other traffic on an increasingly busy World Wide Web, which could negatively impact the viewing experience.
Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau: “Proprietary solutions may offer fast deployment in the short term, but in the medium and longer term buyers will be subject to vendor lock-in, with the risk of costly upgrades and reduced content and hardware choice. Industry consortia-based ‘standards’ are mostly region-specific with little or no implementation. This event proves that ITU global standards are ready to go, and in fact are already being implemented.”
Many companies are now selling TV and set-top box products based on ITU-T’s IPTV Terminal Standard ITU-T H.721, with products already available in countries including Brazil, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, France, and elsewhere. In China and Japan, services based on ITU IPTV standards are deployed and boast several million subscribers. A test service is being conducted in Singapore, and there is interest in setting up test beds in India and Canada.
Speaking at the event, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour said: “ITU IPTV standards are the result of detailed international discussions which have included many developing countries. These talks take into account various aspects of technologies, including IPRs, maturity, stability and market adoption, leading to standards that provide for high quality and low cost. Since ITU IPTV standards are based on mature technologies, decided by consensus, interoperability is easier to achieve among different vendors.”
David Wood, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Head of New Technology: “IPTV has been around for some time but it hasn’t been the success that people hoped. The principal reason is that there have been a lot of IPTVs − which means you don’t have the benefits of a large market and the benefits of open markets and competition. What we have now is a common standard which everyone can build equipment to, and this should really make IPTV much more successful in the future.”
Further IPTV ITU Interop events are planned for Singapore, 27-28 September, and Pune, India 16-17 December 2010.