With Netflix and the Internet, TV has become old-fashioned. Why should you watch programs only when they are broadcast? Wouldn’t it be better to watch TV as if you were browsing the web, so you could choose the show you want to watch when and where you want? This is one of the promises of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), which uses Internet technology to broadcast TV programs “on demand”. Let’s see what it is!

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What is IPTV?

IPTV is growing rapidly, with the emergence of new providers and new services alongside traditional TV providers, which offer more IPTV offerings.

IPTV stands for “Internet Protocol Television”. The IPTV of IPTV is the same as that of your IP or VoIP (voice over IP) address. This means that television programming is transmitted using the Internet protocol.
With cable or satellite television, broadcasters send signals and viewers receive them. You can only watch what is broadcast. Unless you have a recording device, you can only choose from the programs broadcast by different channels and watch what is available.
IPTV is different. Instead of transmitting content by light pulses over a fiber optic cable or by radio waves from a satellite, IPTV sends broadcasts and movies over a broadband Internet connection.
Instead of broadcasting a series of programs on a specific schedule, most IPTV channels use video on demand (V0D) or time-delayed media.
There is a complicated network architecture behind it, which makes it functional, including a lot of transcoding from traditional signals to IP signals. But the important thing is that you don’t have to watch what’s on the air. You can tell your provider what you want to watch and they will send it to you immediately.

If you used a streaming service like Netflix, it’s the same idea, but with TV instead of movies or series.

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IPTV reception

All three forms of IPTV can work either using your computer and an ordinary web browser, or (for much better quality) a decoder and ordinary digital TV. These three services can be offered either over the public Internet or through a managed private network that works essentially the same way (for example, from your telephone and Internet service provider at your home, entirely through the provider’s network) .

Do you need a decoder for IPTV?

Your computer, on the other hand, needs nothing to watch IPTV. Once signed up for a service, you can use it to watch what you want in any of the IPTV formats. So if you can mirror your screen on your TV, you can watch IPTV without a set-top box.

Since most TVs are not equipped for IPTV, you may need a set-top box that “translates” what you receive over your Internet connection into a format that your TV can read. The future of IPTV is likely to be the purchase of set-top boxes that receive input from your Internet connection (via Ethernet or Wi-Fi cable), decode the signal, and display a picture on your large-screen high-definition TV. The decoders are in fact autonomous computers programmed to do only one thing: to receive packets of video streaming, to decrypt them, to convert them into video files (MPEG2, MPEG4, or any format), then display them as high quality TV pictures. Apple TV works largely this way, using a set-top box to run simple applications on a lean operating system (tvOS), which handles the process of streaming video over the Internet.

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As a simple, more compact and much more discreet alternative to a set-top box, you can use a so-called dongle, which looks a bit like a USB flash drive, but allows secure access to TV programs on the Internet. The dongle plugs into an HDMI socket on your TV and connects via Wi-Fi to the Internet to broadcast TV programs, movies and music directly.

Google’s Chromecast is a little different: usually you launch it with your computer, tablet or smartphone (which effectively becomes a remote control), after which it streams your movie or TV program directly from the Internet.

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IPTV exists in three different versions

Video on demand (VOD)

VOD streaming is exactly what it looks like; you get video every time you request it. Movie streaming sites are VOD providers. There is no time limit for what you can watch (other than what the service currently has the rights to).

You tell the service what you want to watch, they send it to you over the Internet and you watch it. Simple.

With a service like Netflix or Amazon Prime video, you select a TV show or movie you want to watch from a wide range. They work as a subscription, there are also services where you pay per content consumed

Deferred media

If you have watched “catch-up TV”, you are familiar with this type of IPTV. Many broadcast networks now allow users to watch shows they missed during their broadcast.

The important difference between broadcast media and video on demand is that shared content has a limited retention period. You can’t go back and watch an episode of a show that you missed several years ago.
You watch regular and scheduled shows at a time convenient to you.
Video on demand and delayed media are very similar. The difference is mainly how long you can watch a program after it airs.

IPTV en direct

The third type of IPTV is to broadcast live television programming over the Internet while it is being watched, that is, live over IPTV or simulcast over IP. So, as with television broadcasting, you can also watch live broadcasts on IPTV. Many people view sporting events this way; It’s easy to watch a game streaming on your phone when you’re on the go.

Sport seems to be the fastest growing area of television for IPTV. There are many subscription sports packages (beIN or Eleven Sport for Belgium) that you can watch from your computer or by streaming on your TV whenever you want.

Live IPTV looks like ordinary TV for the consumer.

TV becomes multidirectional media

Traditional television broadcasting means broadcasting information in one direction. Now, the combination of television and video with the Internet opens up the possibility of a much more interactive experience where information flows back and forth.

We can expect much greater participation in the shows we watch.

Instead of speaking directly to an audience of a few hundred people in a studio, TV stations will reach an audience of millions of viewers who can send comments instantly. We can ask questions and ask the witness to answer them a few minutes later, we will vote on the way we want the TV series to run, with multiple endings filmed in advance and different endings screened for viewers different !

How does IPTV work?

With traditional television, the programs are broadcast by being transformed into radio waves and broadcast in the air to an antenna on the roof of your house. The antenna converts the waves into electrical signals and your television decodes them to produce sound and image (satellite television works in the same way, except that the signal bounces in space and returns, while television by cable sends the signal directly to your home without radio waves). How is IPTV different?

Program storage

Live broadcasts are streamed as they are produced, but pre-recorded shows and movies must be stored so that they can be selected and broadcast on demand. Some V0D services limit the number of programs they offer not because they lack storage space, but because it is a way of limiting the overall bandwidth of their service and its impact on the Internet.

Preparation of programs

First, the TV program must be converted to a digital format that can be delivered in packets using the Internet protocol. Sometimes the original program will already be in digital format; sometimes it will come in the form of a standard analog TV picture that requires a little more processing to turn it into digital format.

With current bandwidth limitations, videos must also be compressed so that they can be streamed without being buffered (periodic delays caused by the accumulation of incoming packets by the receiver). In practice, this means that the programs are encoded in MPEG2 or MPEG4 format. Once this is done, the announcements must be inserted and the information must be encrypted.

Streaming

When you browse a website, you are actually creating a temporary link between two computers so that one can “suck” information from the other. Your computer, the client, extracts information from the other computer, usually a much more powerful one, the server, by connecting directly to an IP address that corresponds to the website you want to visit.

The client and the server have a brief intermittent conversation during which the client asks the server for all the files it needs to build the page you are viewing. The servers are usually so fast and powerful that many clients can download this way simultaneously, with very little delay. This type of ordinary download between a client server and a server is known as unicasting IP.

However, when it comes to streaming, clients put a much higher (and concurrent) load on the server, which can cause unacceptable delays and buffers. Thus, with streaming, another type of download is used, known as IP multicasting, in which each packet leaves the server only once but is sent simultaneously to many different destinations; in theory, this means that a server can send information to multiple clients as easily as to a single client.

Hybrid IPTV to save bandwidth

Many television providers are now taking a hybrid approach to IPTV to address some of the problems associated with full IP broadcasts. IPTV requires a lot of bandwidth to transmit so much data at high speed.

Hybrid IPTV combines traditional television services with those based on IP. The biggest selling point is that everything comes in one box. This allows TV providers to expand their offering to their subscribers. It also facilitates the deployment of new products and services without a complete overhaul of the decoder. It’s a good way to go from a traditional to a more modern model.

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