IPTV is the process of delivering content over an IP based network which uses the internet. Typically this content is audiovisual although such networks can be used to send other information such as programme guides. In order for an IPTV service to function the provider must first prepare, code and then distribute the content over their network, typically an user will need a set top box in order to view programmes although increasingly, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and even mobile phones are used.
There are four main steps which an IPTV service must follow in order to deliver content to its customers. For most television programming this will involve the provider obtaining the rights from whoever owns the programming, in terms of movies this may be a studio and in the case of a sporting event this may be a sports’ official body. The rights obtained will typically give the IPTV provider permission to redistribute the programming.
With this content obtained the provider will then have to encode it to ensure that only these customers that are permitted to view it do so. This encoding stage is usually carried out after the provider has received the content from a satellite feed; usually this process will also change the format of the programming to make it suitable for distribution throughout the IP based network.
The IPTV service typically uses the existing phone based broadband connections. For this procedure to be successful there must be enough bandwidth to give the content to the customer’s set best box, otherwise users may have difficulties in streaming the content. Bandwidth difficulties are becoming more prevalent in countries along with legacy phone systems that are simply incapable of carrying so much information, in such instances fibre optics are being employed making possible faster data speeds.
The next component of the service is generally termed “middleware”. This is essentially the user interface that the customer uses and subsequently it should provide an easy and simple way to access the required content. Typically this takes form as an EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) but may also be far more interactive along with picture in picture or research functionality based upon programme titles, stars or categories.
The final piece in the IPTV service jigsaw is the fixed top box. Ultimately this is the gadget which brings the content to the television, runs the middleware and decodes the information. Ultimately it needs to perform successfully, not be too expensive and also robust enough to withstand the wear and tear of a house. Alternatively, there are some services which permit IPTV to be viewed over various other devices
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