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ITU Interop event highlights IPTV interoperability
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
“ 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… ”

Malcolm Johnson
Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau
Photo credit: © ITU/V. Martin

Future of television will rest on stable global standards, say experts

Industry sent out a strong message of support for ITU standards for Internet Protocol television (IPTV) at an event held at ITU headquarters on 20–23 July 2010. Gathered in Geneva for the first of a new series of “ITU Interop” events, IPTV manufacturers took part in a set of tests to demonstrate seamless global interoperability between their various IPTV devices, which have been manufactured to comply with ITU-developed standards, known as Recommendations.

ITU has been busy pioneering a raft of new standards for the technology, which is set to transform global viewing habits in the 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” television 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 television 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 said: “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 television 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, the Republic of Korea and France. 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 Touré 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 intellectual property rights, 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, Head of New Technology at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) stated: “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.”

More IPTV ITU Interop events are planned for Singapore on 27–28 September 2010, and Pune in India on 16–17 December 2010.


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