Advances in networking technology, digital media, and codecs have made it possible for broadband service providers throughout the world to begin streaming live and on-demand television to homes and offices over their high-speed IP networks. This document describes how the SkyTouch IPTV platform can be used to provide the framework for Internet protocol TV (IPTV) systems.
This document describes Internet protocol TV (IPTV) systems and how to use the SkyTouch IPTV to build IPTV solutions. The primary focus is on best practices for configuring components to deliver the highest-quality viewer experience. The document is targeted primarily at deployment and technical personnel who are tasked with designing, building, and maintaining a commercial IPTV infrastructure, and assumes the reader has a basic knowledge of networking and streaming media.
What is IP TV?
IP TV is a method of delivering broadcast television and on-demand, rich media content that uses an Internet protocol (IP) network as the medium. Any broadband IP network can be used for IPTV. However, IPTV is most prominently used as the primary mechanism for carriers, such as telephone companies (telcos), and cable and satellite TV carriers, to deliver television to mass audiences over existing communications infrastructures. IPTV offers carriers flexibility and added value in the form of additional services that can be offered to customers, which improves the carrier's profitability and competitive edge.
Consumers are familiar with two-way communication with voice and data, but an IP network also enables two-way communication in the video connection. With IPTV, consumers can interact with a video service to, for example, order and play video on-demand (VOD) content, change channels, or control playback of a live broadcast. Because the three services are controlled from one source, solutions can be created that take advantage of an integration of services. For example, a solution can be developed that enables customers to view Web pages on their televisions, through which they can order pay-per-view video content and check phone messages. With triple-play, carriers can upgrade their offerings to provide consumers with a full suite of next-generation digital-communication services.IPTV is generally centered on two delivery scenarios: broadcast and VOD.Figure 1 shows how the modes fit into a simplified IPTV network topology.
Figure 1. Simplified IPTV topology.
The topology consists of the following components:
Broadcast source. Live feed from a broadcaster, such as a commercial cable network or on-air television station.
Broadcast encoder. Inputs the analog signal or high bit-rate digital stream from the source, and outputs a stream that is compressed and formatted for delivery over the IP network. An encoder is typically a software program running on a PC, for example, or a dedicated hardware device. A hardware device can include functionality that enables it to also do the job of a media server.
Broadcast streaming system. A media server that hosts a number of encoded broadcast streams for a large number of clients on the network. The broadcast server can deliver multicast or unicast streams, and typically consists of multiple servers configured as a server farm to provide fault tolerance. If unicast, the server farm must manage connections to potentially many thousands of clients.
VOD source. Content that is pre-recorded on a medium such as videotape or hard disk.
VOD encoder. Inputs the pre-recorded content and outputs a VOD file that is properly formatted and compressed. Encoders that output VOD content are typically software programs.
VOD streaming system. A media server that hosts the VOD files for clients on the network. The server must be capable of storing a large number of large files, and then streaming the files to many thousands of viewers. Often, the system consists of multiple servers configured in a server farm to deliver the maximum number of required streams and provide fault tolerance. Storage is often handled by a storage area network (SAN) system that also provides fault tolerance.
Subscriber management system. Integrates customer activity and provides additional customer services, such as an electronic program guide (EPG) and billing.
IP network. Typically, a high-speed, reliable, IP-enabled network.