Don't trip up triple play

06 Feb 2006

by Naveen Bhat, VP/GM, Agilent's Operations Support System Group

The integration of TV/video with voice and broadband access, triple play as it is called, is a clear direction for many wireline carriers today. In theory it will help stem the tide of customers changing service providers by delivering a richer bundle of services. But greater opportunity brings increased complexity -- the network to distribute the services, the operational management systems, the integration of services, the regulatory environment and, of course, the content are all affected. In addition, delivering triple play does not necessarily mean that the whole network infrastructure has to be IP and that the voice service has to ride over the same infrastructure.

At the highest level, triple play simply means delivering television, phone and broadband access through a 'single' pipe. The common view is that triple play means all the services are delivered over a common network infrastructure, for operational efficiency.

One of the key ingredients of triple play is IPTV. The term often gets used interchangeably with 'triple play' since it is seen as the obvious method of delivering TV services by the major wireline carriers.

According to informa Telecoms and Media, there are only 2.5 million IPTV subscribers globally. IDC expects the number of IPTV subscribers to grow from nearly 0.5 million subscribers in 2004 to over 20 million by 2009 in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan.

IPTV means delivering TV programming encapsulated in IP packets and delivered by an IP network infrastructure. This is a very different method to how TV is delivered today. This is termed a push technology where all the channels are broadcast, or pushed to everyone.

With IPTV, we are in a pull environment where the subscriber selects the channel they want and only that channel is then delivered to the subscriber. Instead of a broadcast medium, the local access network uses an IP multicast capability, multicasting the channel to only those subscribers who want to view it. This is a much more efficient use of bandwidth which in turn significantly reduces costs.

With bandwidth conserved and a better managed network infrastructure, the service provider can provide full video on demand, offering thousands of titles at any time. With IPTV video on demand, the subscriber is able to operate the service as if they had the film in their own DVD player.

So, offering TV over IP is more than just a change to the transport network, the whole philosophy of content changes and brings significant new opportunities. Indeed, it is the integration of the services that delivers real value. But, first let us turn to the Network Infrastructure

Although delivering all services over IP brings simplicity to the infrastructure in that you have one network for all services, there is also added complexity.

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