A set-top that is standard across all service types will help finance (and accelerate) the global upgrade of networks to fiber and the migration of services to all-IP.
That’s the conclusion reached by the Arthur D. Little company. The timing is nice because it backs up the exact same contention the NCTA makes in its recent letter to the FCC suggesting regulations be revised to encourage an open market of retail CPE.
With a variety of Internet-ready consoles already in the home (gaming platforms, PCs, DVD players), the industry has yet to reach a consensus as to which device will serve as the hub for delivering IPTV, according to the Arthur D. Little report "Open standards for IPTV Set-Top Boxes" (registration required).
Mass-market take-up of IPTV via set-top boxes (STBs) is the industry’s best chance of funding large-scale fiber broadband infrastructure, so ensuring the STB becomes a universal household fixture must remain a top priority for telecom regulators and players along the supply chain.
"With no widely accepted standard for delivering IPTV, the industry risks lower interoperability and higher costs,” said Erik Almqvist, partner and head of Arthur D. Little’s Telecommunication, Information, Media and Electronics (TIME) Practice in the Nordic region. “In some cases, proprietary solutions can solve this problem, but for the set-top box, no proprietary standard is emerging that can achieve sufficient acceptance to drive global demand.”
Based on analysis of the global IPTV market, Arthur D. Little believes that an open approach to developing STB standards is the best path to achieving rapid price decreases and mass-market distribution, provided certain conditions are met and risks are effectively mitigated:
- Negotiation and cooperation – Manufacturers, operators and existing standards bodies must commit to substantial early investment and compromise based on the promise of major market growth once the standard is adopted.
- Innovation – Developing an open framework with multiple-version functionality will allow future innovations to be retrospectively compatible.
- Security – Open standards’ detractors point to the risk of “hacking.” However, this security threat exists with any popular standard – proprietary or open.
- Corporate and geo-politics – To avoid being steered by the agendas of financially or politically powerful players, the standard must be developed by a globally representative body of technology providers and operators.
- Intellectual property – Patent holders must agree to licensing terms that ensure the equipment costs are not unduly burdened by Intellectual Property Right (IPR) costs.