While telcos worldwide are increasingly embracing IPTV as a strategic weapon to reduce churn rates, they are also struggling to find a business case that justifies their huge investment.
Because of the huge capex investment needed to upgrade infrastructure to support IPTV, telcos are now trying to keep support and ongoing operational costs as low as possible. To do so, they need to ensure that IPTV services are delivered efficiently and seamlessly to end-users.
This won't be an easy task. Telcos need to handle many processes and activities flawlessly. There are many dependent processes to complete, and the failure of a single process can have a cascading effect and negative impact on the entire customer installation.
Many industry players expect the service fulfillment process - including order management, service activation, and inventory and network management - to play a critical role in any IPTV deployment.
"The delivery of IPTV introduces a more complex set of sequences and dependencies between the configuration of access, core and content platforms than other IP residential services," says Peter Briscoe, senior product marketing manager at Amdocs. "Therefore, having a central coordination process that ensures all these steps are carried out correctly is vital in reducing the fallout from the volume of services expected."
Briscoe notes that unlike VoIP, IPTV puts much more demand for bandwidth on the entire network.
"VoIP streams are very small and can be provided over existing core and access links with little planning or additional configuration," he says. "IPTV requires major new network configuration and planning to ensure that the VoD streams are able to be maintained for all customers."
As content is typically a single codec and format, the complexity is in ensuring that the access has been set up to match the requirements for the service. This includes using one of potentially many complex forwarding models to maximize the potential use from the network and ensure the highest quality for each user.
Another challenge is the access network itself, which is still a major bottleneck to the number of concurrent services any single household can have. While this issue can be resolved through the introduction of VDSL and fiber technology, operators are hesitant to do so because it not only requires upgrading the current DSLAM devices, but the whole backhaul network.