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IPTV standards effort moves ahead

With four meetings scheduled this year, the ITU hopes IPTV standards will lower deployment costs

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The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) begins work this week on the next phase of its efforts to establish global standards for IPTV, hoping to increase simplification and integration for IPTV manufacturers, service providers and consumers.

Having released its first set of global IPTV standards back in December, more than 1,200 different IPTV-oriented companies are meeting in Seoul, Korea this week, breaking into study groups to discuss global telecom recommendations for 30 agendas regarding next-generation networks (NGNs). Foremost on the docket is IPTV.

For IPTV service providers operating in a relatively nascent and congested market, product interoperability is becoming more important, driving the need for industry standards.

“You cannot just plug and play with [IPTV],” said Sam Harlan, director of technology consulting for CHR Solutions. “You have to have a specific application, and it has to be integrated with that particular device for it to work. Even with a set-top box, you can have set-top boxes from several of the same vendors and you’ll still have different integration schemes to make that one product line work right now.”

This concern is exacerbated by the fact that IPTV is a global market. Harlan said that the Asian and European markets are further along with IPTV deployments than the North American market, and the proprietary technology deployed there isn’t necessarily well-integrated for North American networks and thus can add cost to North American deployment. This is where the ITU comes in. Holding its first conference in Hong Kong, the ITU’s goal was to change the landscape of IPTV to standardize the industry and ultimately bring down the cost.

“If we can indeed take an application or a piece of equipment that is widely deployed in Europe or Asia and put it into the [North American] market, we’re not having to reinvent the wheel,” Harlan said. “We’ve got something that is out there in the market and gone through integration testing, so we can drop it in and it really ought to perform.”

Largely, the companies involved agreed that IPTV is the first and most important service under NGN, but because of the nature of the market segment, standardization will probably take much longer than with other NGNs.

“This initial high-level output of the ITU IPTV-FG is just one step in the process of defining standards for next-generation delivery networks and services, and considerably more work is expected going forward,” Microsoft said in a prepared statement. “Today, major operators around the world are deploying IPTV services based on existing Internet standards. IPTV is a relatively new service offering, and the full set of requirements for standards is not yet known. We can expect to see continued activity in this area for some time to come."

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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