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IPTV much more than video
By Carol Wilson

Jun 9, 2008 12:49 PM

As IPTV is being deployed at mass scale by large telecom service providers around the globe, the service is quickly morphing from a video service to compete with cable and satellite into a whole-home communications and entertainment system that ties the TV set into the voice and computing systems consumers are already using.

At NXTcomm08, major equipment vendors will be demonstrating just how IP convergence in the home is likely to play out.

“At NXTcomm, IPTV or video will remain a big highlight for us but in the context of the Connected Home,” said Pankaj Gupta, senior manager for Broadband and IPTV/Video Marketing in the Service Provider Marketing Group at Cisco, which is using NXTcomm08 to show off its end-to-end video solution from headend to set-top box. “We are very focused on the empowered consumer.”

Connecting TVs and PCs onto an IP network in the home already enables sharing of music and photos from one platform to the next, but service providers are going well beyond those early offerings.

“We believe the TV today is the PC of the ‘80s,” said Christine Heckart, general manager of marketing for Microsoft’s TV business. Just as PCs became more vital tools once they are connected to the Internet, so the TV experience will also be transformed by its connection to the rest of the world, she said. “We are only beginning to take advantage of that," Heckart said. “Now we can start to look at how we can transform the experience -- that is where the magic of software comes in.”

Microsoft is emphasizing the capability of third-party developers and service providers themselves to develop and customize applications using a new toolkit, the Mediaroom Presentation Framework, that was released in a beta version in late May, and allows applications developers to pull content directly from Web services into IPTV applications. All of its service provider customers are actively differentiating their video offerings, Heckart said.

This new capability will enable applications that let consumers watch an event and simultaneously get information from Web sites that can enhance that viewing experience.

Calix will be demonstrating some of what Microsoft MediaRoom can do, as well, focusing on interactivity, said Geoff Burke, director of field marketing.
“The main theme is that 2008 is the year of interactivity,” Burke said. “That is due to the validation of video-on-demand platforms as well as ability now that there is enough digital and IPTV penetration to start turning up targeted applications that enhance and personalize the user experience. So we want to highlight the interactive features that IP brings to bear, now that every subscriber has two-way connectivity, all middleware is active rather than passive.”

One of the more exciting aspects of tying the TV set into an IP network is adding social networking to the mix, said Meredith Flynn-Ripley, CEO of Integra5, which is exhibiting its software to deliver Caller ID on the TV and more at the Minerva booth at NXTcomm08.

“We are going to be seeing this over the next year, and that is the ability to watch TV and send a message to a friend and say, ‘Let’s watch this together’ or hit a button and set up a conference call,” she said. “You will be able to text with the remote control to the person while you are watching a TV program and text to everyone in the group. The same holds true for viewing pictures -- the key to picture viewing experience is talking about the pictures, and we can embed that communications into picture sharing environment.”

Tellabs, which is exhibiting its optical technology all the way to the home, also sees “a major wave of integration coming inside the home,” said Dan Kelly, executive vice president of product development at Tellabs, which will be doing video demonstrations at NXTcomm08 to show off the optical capacity. “Especially with the [analog broadcast] TV cutoff next year, we are seeing more movement to HD, and not just into your living room. Consumers are asking for simultaneous HD experience throughout the home, plus increased broadband speeds for downloading YouTube.”

A number of exhibitors also will be showing how technology used to manage networks will benefit IPTV deployments. For example Allot Communications will be showing how deep packet inspection (DPI) capabilities provide a “great tool for service providers in that it allows them to offer, by knowing who the subscriber is and what the application is, a better performance package,” said Cam Cullen, director of product management, Americas, for Allot. In addition to providing quality of service that protects video and voice traffic, DPI can also be used to enable things such as local caching of content so that network bandwidth is conserved, Cullen said.

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