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From TelcoTV: Come together now, right now, over IPTV

Wed, 10/24/2007 - 9:33am
Mike Robuck

IPTV has grown past the chrysalis stage and into a full-fledged service that is deployed to more than 8.3 million subscribers worldwide, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t a few wrinkles to work out when it comes to standards and the various entities working together.

The first session at the TelcoTV conference in rain-drenched Atlanta focused on how the industry can move forward while dealing with a complex roster of players who aren’t always running the same play.

While the cable industry has the SCTE to push through standards with ANSI, and CableLabs responding to the specification needs of the large operators, the IPTV space is more fragmented, it was pointed out in the conference’s first session, called “Telco TV Standards Roundtable: The Road to Seamless Services.” As moderator and Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie said of IPTV, “the number of stakeholders make it complex.”

As far as standards go, Dan O'Callaghan, chairman of the ATIS Interoperability Forum, said his group is working with ANSI on a standard definition of the IPTV architecture, as well as quality of experience (QoE) and quality of service (QoS). Once that’s completed, the second phase will cover technologies such as VOD, impulse pay-per-view, targeted ads and streaming content coming upstream from subscribers.

Scott Smyers, the president and chairman of DLNA, said more work needs to be done on digital rights management (DRM), as well as a process for products to be certified.

DSL Forum CEO Robin Mersh said the various entities on the panel, which also included a representative of the Consumer Electronics Association, need to do more work on gap analysis, and where the various standard or industry bodies overlap. While some of the gaps in standards are a result of IPTV’s proprietary environment, Ghassem Koleyni, the chairman of the  ITU-T Focus Group on IPTV, said, “everything that exists needs to be an open standard.”

With so many fingers in the IPTV pie, Finnie asked who the ringleader is when it comes to the IPTV products and services that enter a customer’s home. The answer to date is no one, but that it needs to be a joint effort by all of the parties involved.

“Consumers realize now that that they can connect CE devices, but we need protocols that the telcos haven’t identified yet,” said Virginia Williams, director of standards, Consumer Electronics Association. “The two that need standards are DRM and network management. The consumer electronics industry is at the edge of the network where these aspects manifest.”

In regards to the CE industry, Mersh said that the IPTV industry needs commercial arrangements between the telcos and CE vendors instead of standards.

“We need to have discussions about not reinventing the wheel and making sure there are no overlaps,” he said.

Williams bristled at a question from an audience member that the CableLabs approach of serving cable might work better for the IPTV industry. She said that when fewer numbers of entities decide what’s best for an industry, it’s generally not good for the industry or consumers.

While IPTV has gone from a pipe dream several years ago to a deployed service, the growing pains are far from over, especially when the various organizations are still hashing out the ground rules.

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