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iptv how does it work

iptv how does it work and why should someone whom you have never met decide when and what you watch on TV? There are many channels to choose from, but they’re limited, and you can’t record them in advance. You have to watch the broadcasts. Please select the show you want to watch whenever you want to. IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) uses Internet technology to provide TV programs “on-demand.” How does it operate? What will be the benefits? What are the challenges that broadcasters and phone companies will face in delivering these services? Take a closer view!

What is IPTV?

IPTV, from the TV viewer’s perspective, is simple: Instead of receiving TV broadcast signals through a satellite dish or rooftop antenna that enters your house, you stream them (download and play almost simultaneously) via your Internet connection. IPTV is compatible with ADSL broadband lines, but they are slow and can only handle 1-10 Mbps. This is the amount of data in a novel that enters your computer each second. Fibre broadband lines have ten times more bandwidth. The program can be viewed on your PC or mobile device, such as a smartphone, or through a set-top box (a type of adapter that fits between your Internet connection and your TV receiver to decode incoming signals).

IPTV can be more complicated from the perspective of a telephone or broadcasting company. A sophisticated storage system is needed to store all the videos that you wish to make available, and an interface with a web style to allow people to choose the programs they desire. After a viewer selects a program, it is necessary to encode it in a format suitable for streaming. Encrypt the file with digital rights management (DRM) (encoding the file so that only those who have paid can decode it and receive it), embed advertising (especially if it’s a free program), and stream the video across the Internet. You also need to know how to deliver a high-quality image (mainly if your program includes advertising, which is what advertisers expect).

Three types of IPTV

IPTV is available in three flavours.

  • Video on Demand (VOD) is the first type, and you probably already use it. Netflix is an online movie service that allows you to choose a movie or TV show from a large selection, pay for it, and watch the program right away.
  • Some of the most innovative TV broadcasters in the world are offering a different type of IPTV. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), in the UK, makes last week’s broadcasts available online via a web-based video player named the BBC iPlayer. It’s sometimes called “time-shifted IPTV” because you can watch regular broadcasts when it’s convenient for you.
  • Live IPTV, or IP Simulcasting, is the third type of IPTV. It involves streaming live TV shows across the Internet while they are being watched.

The three types of IPTV work with either a computer and a web browser or (for optimum quality) using a set-top box and, e.g. digital TV. All three are available over the Internet or via a private, managed network.

We can expect to be more involved in the shows we watch. Presenters will no longer speak to a small studio audience but to thousands or even millions of viewers. They can also send instant feedback. We will be able to ask questions, and the presenter will answer them a few minutes later. We could vote on the endings of TV soaps and have different ones shown to other viewers.

You may have noticed interactive advertising in some VOD services. Since you are viewing a video on a web page, clicking an advertisement will take you to the website to find out more. IPTV will allow advertisers to target their ads to individuals based on the growing trend of highly targeted behaviour advertising online. This will prove to be more attractive and practical for advertisers than the generic, catch-all ads that they currently screen on broadcast TV channels. This is not least because many people record shows for later viewing and fast-forward past the ads. You may even be able to select the ads you wish to see (“Only show my fashion/sports ads”).

What is IPTV? iptv how does it work

Traditional TV broadcasts programs by converting them into radio waves, which are then sent through the air to a rooftop antenna. The antenna converts these waves into electrical waves, and then your TV decodes them to produce sound and pictures. Satellite TV is similar, but the signal bounces back and forth into space, whereas cable TV sends its signal directly into the home. What is IPTV?

Storing programs

Live shows are streamed live, but recorded programs and movies must be stored so that they can be accessed on demand. VOD services may limit the number of programs available, not because of a lack of storage, but to reduce the impact of their service on the Internet. If the BBC, for example, made all of its programs available on the iPlayer (which is free), a large portion of the UK Internet bandwidth could be used to stream TV soap operas or sitcoms. This would slow down the network and affect other types of Internet traffic.

Prepare programs

The original program may already be in digital format, but it can also be an analog TV picture (known as a href=””>SD format/a>) that needs to be processed further. The original program may already be digital, but it could also be an analog picture (SD format), which will need to be converted into digital form (analog-to-digital conversion). Videos must be compressed to avoid buffering. This means that programs are encoded either in MPEG2 format or MPEG4 (MPEG4 offers higher quality video for the same bandwidth and only requires half as much bandwidth to carry an SD image as MPEG2). After that, the ads must be added and encoded.

Streaming of programs

You’re creating a temporary connection between two computers when you visit a website. This allows one computer to “suck” data from another. By linking directly to the IP address of the website that you wish to view, your computer (the client) pulls data from the server. Client and server engage in a short, intermittent chat during which the client asks the server for all the files needed to create the page that you are viewing. The servers are so powerful and fast that they can handle many clients downloading simultaneously with little delay. IP unicasting is the term used to describe this type of normal downloading between a client-server and a server.

IP multicasting

Nevertheless, when it comes to streaming (playing the programs as they download), the clients can put an unacceptable load (simultaneously) on the server. This could cause delays and buffering. Another type of downloading, IP multicasting, is used with streaming. Each packet is only sent once from the server but simultaneously to multiple destinations. In theory, one server could send information as quickly to many clients as it would to a single. If 1000 people are watching the World Cup Final simultaneously over the Internet, then they would be receiving packets from a single IP multicast server that were sent to 1000 clients at the exact moment. When the same TV provider offers an episode of Friends, and some of those 1000 people “switch” channels to watch it, they switch from one IP Multicast group to another. They will now receive a different video.

It isn’t easy, due to the global nature of the Internet, to send data from your server reliably to a local client or a client located on the other side of the world. It’s for this reason that IPTV providers use worldwide servers with synchronized networks, called content delivery networks (CDNs), to keep “mirror copies” of the same data. For example, people in the United States could stream programs from Mountain View in California, while those in Europe would get them from Frankfurt in Germany.

IPTV Protocols

You don’t download a streamed program like you would a regular file. You download a small part of a program, play it and then, as it plays, download the next bit. The file is not stored very long. Streaming is possible because both your computer (the “client”) and the server (which receives data) have agreed to this. The Internet is able to connect almost all computers in the world because they decide to communicate with one another using prearranged protocols. Rather than using standard web-based protocols (technically known as HTTP and FTP), the streaming process involves protocols adapted to simultaneous download and playback, such as RTP (Real-Time Protocol) and RTSP(Real-Time Streaming Protocol). Multicast streaming is achieved by using IGMP or IP Group Management Protocol (you’ll see some books and websites that replace the M with Membership). This allows one server to broadcast to a group (in other words, many people watching the same channel). 

Managed networks

It is very different to deliver IPTV over the Internet, and many IPTV providers are going to choose this route. By controlling the network, they will be able to guarantee quality and service. This means a hierarchical, highly organized network with a central office called a super-head-end (SHE), where all programs are stored and the service is coordinated. The SHE feeds into regional hubs, or video hub offices, which, in turn, service local distribution offices that service set-top boxes at individual homes.

Watching programs

IPTV is available to anyone with a computer, broadband Internet connection and a TV. However, most people don’t like watching television on a laptop. Set-top boxes, or STBs, are likely the future of IPTV. They will receive input via your Internet connection, either through an Ethernet cord or WiFi, decode the signal and then display the picture on your widescreen, high-definition TV. STBs, which are essentially standalone computers, have only one purpose: to receive streamed videos, decrypt the packets, and convert them to video files in MPEG2, MPEG4, MPEG4 or any other format. They then display these high-quality TV images. Apple TV is a similar product, which uses a set-top-box to run apps on a slimmed-down operating system (tvOS) and then streams video over the Internet.

As an alternative to set-top boxes, you can use a Dongle. It looks like a USB memory stick but provides secure access to Internet TV. The dongle connects to an HDMI socket (high-speed, high-definition video) on your TV. It then connects to the Internet via WiFi and streams TV shows, movies and music. Roku and Amazon Fire are two examples of dongles that work without the need for a mobile or computer. Google Chromecast works a bit differently: you can get it started with your computer, smartphone, or tablet (which becomes the remote control), and then it will stream your movie or television program directly from the Internet.

What is the difference between a Set-Top Box and a Dongle? The difference between a dongle and a set-top box is pretty simple. A set-top box has a larger box with a faster processor and more memory so that it can produce a higher-quality video output. This makes it ideal for high-performance games. Amazon and Roku offer the option of a relatively inexpensive dongle or a higher-spec, more expensive set-top box.

What is the future of broadcasting?

Indeed, IPTV is not a popular choice among TV viewers. But this is normal. No one can appreciate something they’ve never experienced. The huge popularity of VOD sites like BBC iPlayer and time-shifting PVRs such as TiVO and Sky+ (in the UK) strongly suggests that TV will increasingly move away from broad-defined channels and rigid schedules and towards more narrowly focused pay-per-view programming.

Even so, consumer demand will not be the primary driving force behind the transition from broadcast TV in the 20th century to IPTV in the 21st century, at least to start with. Faced with cable-based competitors, traditional telephone companies have been forced to redefine themselves into information service providers. They now offer both phone and internet connectivity. They see an opportunity to expand their business by providing telephone, Internet and TV services at the same time. IPTV allows telephone companies and broadcasters, who already bundle all three services into attractive bundles, to compete. Who knows if people will still regard TV, the telephone and the Internet separately in the future or if they will continue to merge and converge?

IPTV may sound easier to deliver than it is in reality. Currently, the biggest obstacle is the fact that more homes need broadband connections capable of handling a high-quality video stream. It will take considerable time and investment to upgrade ordinary broadband connections into fibre optic broadband so that they can provide homes with 10 to 100Mbps. IPTV providers won’t be able to guarantee “quality of service” (also known as QoS, or “quality experience,” QoE) as good as TV delivered via cable, satellite or over the airwaves until that time. Latency and packet loss can be a problem for VoIP telephones (Voice Over Internet Protocol), but they are even more problematic when adding broadcast-quality video to the stream. Packet loss is more severe when IPTV streams are compressed using MPEG2 or MPEG4.

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