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IPTV, THis Time around

9/12/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Yet another reason why it's always good to ask someone what they mean by “IPTV”: At least seven international standards-setting bodies are working on it. One has eight subcategories.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all hail from different industry sectors. The European over-the-air broadcasters do Internet-protocol television via the DVB (Digital Video Broadcast). Wireless carriers work through the OMA (Open Mobile Alliance).

And then there's the standards workhorse known as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).

It's the one with eight subcategories.

Not Just for Telcos Now

The first time this column looked in on IPTV was in August 2005. At the time, it was mostly a telco thing. It remains AT&T's not-so-secret sauce.

Then, we defined IPTV as “an amorphous term describing the delivery of digitized video over the passageway used by devices that 'speak' in Internet protocol (IP), such as cable and DSL modems and anything with an Ethernet connector.”

Here's how the International Telecommunications Union defines IPTV: “Multimedia services, such as television/video/audio/text/graphics/data, delivered over IP-based networks managed to provide the required level of QoS/QoE, security, interactivity, and reliability via intelligent terminals such as PCs, set-tops, handhelds, TVs, and other terminals.”

Translation into cable-speak: It's about sending additional video formats, through the cable modem (or set-top with embedded cable modem), to screens that move (phones, handhelds) and screens that stay where they are (TVs).

The “QoS/QoE” stands for “quality of service / quality of experience,” which, in cable's engine rooms, happens within the PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) specifications at CableLabs.

“Security” will mean a morph to DRM (digital-rights management) from conditional access. “Interactivity” is up for grabs.

Now for some Comic Relief

Speaking of security, let us also heed “Dilbert.” The pointy-haired boss asks about a standards-setting meeting: “Did you convince 83 companies to adopt standards that only benefit us, while dooming the rest of the industry in the long term — or are you a complete failure?”

Dilbert: “Can I hear those choices again?”

September