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IPTV – Issues and

Challenges
Mathew George
5/25/2010

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Executive Summary
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is today revolutionizing the way we watch television.
Customers are no longer satisfied with just watching whatever the television studios choose
to show. With the drastic change in lifestyles, customers feel shackled by the rigid television
schedules and the contents developed for mass consumption. Allowing customers the
freedom to choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch is the way
forward for telecommunication service providers today. With innovative interactive features
like video on demand, personal video recording and trick play, customer now have full
control of what they watch. Hence IPTV has become imperative for telecommunication
service providers to retain or expand their customer base and to boost their revenue.

The rapidly increasing number of broadband customers and technical advances in


compression has made IPTV viable both technically and financially. The over 200 million
broadband users worldwide who are familiar with interactive content over the internet form
a lucrative market. The major stakeholders in end to end IPTV system are the content
providers, service providers and network providers. The service providers are responsible for
providing quality of service to the customers.

IPTV being a relatively new technology provides multiple architectural choices. The service
providers can use either a managed network or an open network to transfer content. The
managed network gives better quality of service with reduced latency and packet loss. The
content delivery system can be either centralized or distributed. The centralized architecture
is more suited to small scale networks with limited interactivity. When it comes to bigger
networks with more interactive features, a distributed architecture would ensure better
quality, scalability and flexibility.

Bandwidth, Latency, choice of transport protocol, reliability, security and extensible Set Top
Boxes (STBs) are some of the challenges faced by IPTV networks today. Advances in encoding
techniques and compression techniques have assuaged the bandwidth demands. Latency
issues can be controlled to an extent by intelligent buffer management. MPEG-4 over RTP
provides better resilience to packet loss. Copyright of contents are protected using Digital
Rights Management (DRM) systems. Standardization of STBs is another hurdle which holds
the potential to reduce costs and enable interoperability. An IPTV network which addresses
these issues can be expected to provide a good quality of experience.

With more and more service providers entering the fray, the issues faced by IPTV are being
tackled on multiple fronts. Hence IPTV is here to stay and to change the way we watch
television today.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 Introduction…………………………………………………………...................... 5
1.1 Linear Broadcast..................................................................... 5
1.2 Video on Demand (VOD)........................................................ 5
1.3 Personal Video Recorder (PVR).............................................. 5

2 IPTV Delivery Architectures....………………………………………………….. 7


2.1 Open and Managed Architectures………………………………...... 7
2.2 Content Delivery Networks……………………………………………… 8

3 Challenges in IPTV Delivery…………………………………………………........ 10


3.1 Bandwidth and Audio/Video Encoding……………………………... 10
3.2 Transport Protocols....................................…......................... 10
3.3 Jitter and Latency………........................................................... 11
3.4 Reliability................................................................................ 11
3.5 Security and Digital Rights Management (DRM).................... 11
3.6 IPTV Set Top Box (STB)........................................................... 12

4 IPTV QOE..................…………….…………………………………………………… 13
5 Conclusion...................………………………………………………………………. 14
6 References...................................................................................... 15

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1. Introduction
Television landscape is undergoing a paradigm shift since the beginning of 21st century.
Technologies like satellite TV and digital TV have matured over the years and have become
an integral part of television media systems. Now the field is being shaken up by the arrival
of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). IPTV delivers multimedia content encoded as Internet
Protocol packets over a broadband network. Thus IPTV promises broadcast television, video
on demand and interactive media services directly to the television set at the customer’s
home. [1][3]

IPTV has been around as an emerging but unproven technology for many years. With the
steep rise in broadband connectivity, emergence of highly efficient compression techniques
and huge investments in fibre infrastructure, IPTV is slowly beginning to deliver on its
promises. There are almost 181 million broadband users with up to 25% of population
having broadband access in many countries as per June 2006 statistics. This has given
telecommunications industry the confidence to aggressively promote IPTV. With
competition driving broadband prices lower and the spread of VOIP and mobile telephony,
Telcos are now looking for alternate revenue streams such as IPTV. [4][2][1]

From the customer’s perspective, IPTV provides enhanced interactivity and freedom from
fixed TV schedules. Remote video recording, interactive advertisements and video on
demand are exciting features which accelerate the adoption of IPTV. Users would also have
the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind while watching programmes. Hence IPTV has
something for both customers and telcos. [6][5]

1.1 Linear broadcast


This is the conventional television being delivered over an IP network. The video channels
from content providers are multicast to the IPTV devices at the user premise and the users
would watch it as it is being broadcast. This is different from internet video since the
content is sent through a managed network ensuring high QOS (Quality of Service). The
managed network would incorporate features like forward error correction to minimize the
errors in a multicast environment. This can be done in a pay per view model where user
decides which shows to watch and pays accordingly. [2][7][8][40]

1.2 Video on Demand (VOD)


Content providers maintain a huge repository on a VOD server. Users are then presented
with a list of the contents stored in the VOD server. Users can then stream the videos or
download them completely before starting to watch the video. Video on demand is
delivered using unicast connection which sets up dedicated one to one connections for each
video demanded by the customer. [9][10][8]

1.3 Personal Video Recording (PVR)


Users can record video of their choice and view them later. This enables the user to pause,
replay and time shift the video experience. Video recording can be done either in the
network or in the client side set top box. Recording the video in the network is termed as
Network Personal Video Recording (nPVR). This enables the user to continue watching
television while some other show is being recorded on the network. In the same scenario if
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the recording is being done in the set top box, there has to be one signal to the PVR and
another signal for the show which is being currently watched by the user. [11][12][13]

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2. IPTV Delivery Architectures
End to End IPTV architecture can be divided into four functional domains as Content
Provider, Service Provider, Network Provider and the customer.

Content providers maintain a repository of contents which can be either broadcasted or


delivered on demand. They obtain the content from various sources, manage the contracts
with content owners and encode them in different formats. [17][18]

Service providers handle the entire operational and business model by acquiring contents
and providing them to the customers with satisfactory quality. They make the decisions on
which format is to be sent to the customer. Service providers are responsible for managing
customer sessions and providing customer support. They also deal with Digital Rights
Management (DRM) and billing for the content being distributed. [17][18]

Network providers ensure that the content reaches the customers without disruptions. They
manage the traffic over the network and employ techniques such as multicast and unicast to
deliver the various IPTV services. They include the different access technologies like DSL,
Fibre, Cable etc. [17][18]

At the customer end, the encoded content reaches the Set Top Box (STB) from the IP
network. Here the content is decoded and processed to provide desirable signal quality. The
decoded content is then displayed on either standard definition or high definition TV. The
STB provides interactivity by communicating with the service providers. When the customer
places a demand for a video, the STB communicates it to the server. Since only one channel
is sent to the customer, channel change information is also sent to the service providers by
the STB. [19][18][20]

2.1 Open and Managed Architecture


IPTV can be delivered to the user either using an open network or using a managed
network. In open network, IPTV is delivered through the internet and the service provider
has very little control over the network traffic. Here the service can be affected by latency
and packet losses due to the congestion in the network. Hence the buffer sizes in receiver
devices have to be high. [20][21][22]

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Figure 1: Open and Managed IPTV architectures
Source: http://www.openiptvforum.org/docs/OIPF-T1-R1-Functional%20Architecture-V1_0-
2007-09-20.pdf

In managed network, the service provider has some relationship with the network provider
and hence can manage the network traffic. Format of content, buffer size and the receiver
hardware can be standardized in a managed network. The service provider can manage the
bit rates and the encoding format to ensure quality. IPTV over managed networks hence,
tend to have higher quality of service. Now new architectures are also emerging allowing
the STB to receive content from both the internet and the managed network. In this
architecture, contents from the internet are also delivered through the managed network.
This would require high level of intelligence in the STB probably increasing the cost of the
device. [20][21][22]

2.2 Content Delivery Architecture


Content delivery systems generally consist of storing and streaming the content. First the
content is aggregated and the metadata is standardized such that they can be exchanged
between the content providers and content vendors and to ensure the availability of VOD
metadata. The content is then formatted to suit different end platforms and stored in media
servers or VOD servers. The stored media consists of broadcast content which includes all
the formats and resolutions of the videos being broadcast. When users pauses a broadcast
video, the video is stored in the server and played out later to the user as a video on
demand. The entire content is stored in a video library to provide quick fail over protection
to the VOD server. When user requests content, it is streamed from the video library to the
VOD server which then services the user. The dynamic content delivery employs caching of
content to improve bandwidth usage and to reduce latency. Caching is done in multiple tiers
of the network for local, regional and national content. [23][24]
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The content delivery architecture can be either centralized or distributed. Centralized
architecture is realized by placing all the content and the intelligence in one central location.
It suits smaller networks with limited VOD features and simplifies content management. It
offers limited scalability and flexibility. Distributed architectures on the other hand have a
central store of broadcast media and a distributed store supporting on demand video. They
enjoy the dual benefits of simplified central content management and low latency,
bandwidth optimized streaming services. Thus distributed architecture is used to realize
IPTV networks with dynamic content delivery. [20][23][24]

Figure 2: Distributed architecture with central and edge repositories


Source: http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/technical-documentation/h2466-2-iptv-
ref-arch.pdf

Here in Figure 2, there is a central repository storing the content in a content server. A
Digital Media Distribution and Management Suite (DMDMS) server manages the media flow
to the edge VOD servers. Hot Folder and Ingestion servers perform the content ingestion
tasks by getting the contents and performing xml formatting. There can be multiple regional
repositories connected to a central repository. The regional repositories cater to the
dynamic streaming demands of the network. The less popular contents within the streaming
server are replaced with more popular contents from the storage server. The streaming
servers are distributed in the edge network and employ caching of contents. Here the
regional repository has a storage library which has the less popular contents and backs up
the VOD servers. There is also a VOD portal server which enables the users to select the
video of their choice and gives users access to whole range of interactive features. [23][24]

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3. Challenges in IPTV delivery

3.1 Bandwidth and Audio/Video Encoding


IPTV being a bandwidth intensive service, advanced encoding techniques have to be used to
provide higher quality with reduced bandwidth. MPEG-2 is the standard most widely used
today. It requires 3 Mbps and 12 Mbps for standard and high definition television
respectively. MPEG-4 part 10 / H.264 / Advanced Video Coding (AVC) encoding is available
today which requires only 1.6Mbps and 6Mbps for standard and high definition television.
Hence using AVC ensures a higher quality video at the same time with less bandwidth. AVC
is slowly gaining ground as the encoding standard of choice. [14][25][26]

Definition Encoder Bitrate


Standard Definition MPEG-2 3 Mbps
Standard Definition MPEG-4 / H.264 1.6 Mbps
High Definition MPEG-2 12 Mbps
High Definition MPEG-4 / H.264 6 Mbps

Figure 3: Bit rates for different coding standards


Source: http://www.ccpu.com/articles/2007/addressing-the-bandwidth-demands-of-iptv/

Hence a home with two HDTVs would require a minimum of 12Mbps access connection. If
the recording is done within the set top box then that would require another 6Mbps since
users might be recording video and watching television at the same time. This would drive
the bandwidth demand to 18Mbps. [14]

Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) is now being used for Digital Video Broadcasting. The same
can be used in IPTV. Dolby digital plus is another option in audio encoding. It uses advanced
metadata which can be modified to suit different viewing environments. [25][27]

3.2 Transport Protocol


There are multiple transport protocols which can be used in IPTV delivery. The content is
transferred as IP packets through the network. Transport protocols like UDP (User Datagram
Protocol) and RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol) are used to ensure reliability in data
transfer. Some of the architectures today use MPEG-2 transport stream to carry data in
MPEG-4 format. MPEG-4 transport stream also can be carried over UDP-IP or over RTP-UDP-
IP. MPEG-4 video packets can be easily mapped to transport packets in RTP. Hence using
MPEG-4 over RTP enables interleaving of audio frame. This reduces the errors caused due to
packet losses. MPEG-4 over RTP also aids better interactivity since it can send across the
specific i-frames quickly when user decides to fast forward or rewind. It provides feedback
on network congestion allowing the streaming server to vary the bit rate accordingly. It also
has less overhead since it doesn’t include the transport stream headers. Hence MPEG-4 over
RTP would be ideal for IPTV services. [25][28]

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3.3 Jitter and Latency
Transporting content over IP packets face the problem of packet losses and retransmissions.
This causes the traffic to be bursty and introduces jitter into the network. Jitter can be
reduced by buffering some amount of the data and then playing it out smoothly. So buffers
are used in every stage of the transmission like headend, network and the customer
premise equipment to reduce the jitter. But when the user demands a video or changes the
channel, the new stream has to pass through all the buffers, causing a delayed response.
Hence buffers introduce latency in the network. [29][30]

Latency becomes an important factor during channel changes. The time of arrival of the
next I frame is another factor in channel change delays. Digital rights management also
induce overheads in the network that add to the delay. [4][15]

Latency in IPTV can be reduced by controlling the buffer size. When user requests new
content, the buffer would be reduced to a small size which would be slowly incremented as
the user continues to watch the stream. The packet size should be selected to minimize
fragmentation which introduces delay into transmissions. Alternate channel change streams
can also be employed to provide the on demand stream from the local store until the
normal channel is ready with the on demand content. Flushing the buffers when the user
demands for new content also reduces latency. [29][30]

3.4 Reliability
To achieve reliable IPTV service, data packet losses should be minimized and hardware
redundancy should be provided. The VOD servers must also be equipped to function under
high loads. [4][16]
Encoding and transmission techniques employed in IPTV have been in existence for quite
some time and hence provide stable working. The decoder devices on the other hand do not
have a proven reliability record. Networks should also have the capacity to recover from
breakdown within seconds. Components with high reliability have to be selected in the IPTV
end to end design. [31][32]

3.5 Security and Digital Rights Management


Contents provided in IPTV would have copyrights and have to be protected from
unauthorized access. Hence user authentication and content protection are two important
requirements for a secure IPTV network. VOD servers would need to protect the stored
content from malicious hackers and denial of service attacks. Users should be authenticated
and they should be able to access the content they are entitled to. The network as a whole
must be insulated from attacks at the edge of the network. [4][16]

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an important part of ensuring copyright protection.


DRM controls the distribution of content by employing encryptions. Hence DRM has to
authenticate the receiver. DRM also requires a time source to decide upon time based
content rights. Digital watermarking is another technique to ensure security of content.
[33][34]

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3.6 IPTV Set Top Box (STB)
A STB decodes the incoming media streams and enables the user to interact with the service
provider. It enables the user to demand content, authenticate and access the content
entitled to him. STBs have to be flexible and should be remotely updatable by downloading
updates from the network. Remote updating provides an alternative to changing the
hardware in order to provide new interactive features. STBs now also come with PVR
feature where user can store some contents in an on premise hard disk. [35][36]

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4. IPTV QOE

Improving the perceived quality of audio or video would require expensive upgrading of
equipments. Hence some means of measuring the Quality of Experience (QOE) would be
vital to retain the customer base. The best way identified so far is the Mean Opinion Score
(MOS) which is average of scores given by a group of viewers on a scale of 1-5. Automatic
measurement of QOE is done by using metrics like Mean Square Error (MSE) and Peak Signal
to Noise Ratio (PSNR). The performance metrics can be monitored and steps can be taken if
any significant performance degradations are observed. Quality measurements for the video
stream can be obtained from the transport stream and RTP packets employed. Some codecs
like AVC provide error concealment reducing the picture degradation. The main concern
with audio QOE is the synchronization with video. This can be measured by checking the
transport packet timestamps. Network parameters like latency, jitter, packet loss and
bandwidth all contribute to improving the QOE. [37][38][39]

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5. Conclusion

IPTV is slowly becoming popular worldwide with a host of interactive services and new
business models. Being in a nascent stage, there are multiple delivery models each with its
own pros and cons. Service providers today are coming up with innovative services using
various standards. Hence emerging IPTV providers would have to first decide the services
which they will be offering and then adopt a suitable architecture. A centralized architecture
might suit a small local service provider while bigger players would opt for a distributed
architecture. [41][20][23]

Meeting the QOE parameters would depend upon how well the service providers tackle
challenges like latency, bandwidth and reliability. Managing content rights would be
important criteria that would decide the future of IPTV. Service providers would have to
negotiate content rights in a way which enables flexible on demand delivery. Much work
needs to be done on the standardization front, such that existing resources can be fully
exploited. IPTV could soon evolve to encompass all the voice, video and data needs of the
household. [42][39][43]

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6. References

1. http://www.iptv.com.au/
2. http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2006/03/iptv.ars
3. http://www.networkdictionary.com/networking/IPTV.php
4. http://www.brocade.com/downloads/documents/white_papers/IPTV_Telco_GA-TB-173-
01.pdf
5. http://www.cs.chalmers.se/~tsigas/Courses/DCDSeminar/Files/IPTVrapport.pdf
6. http://www.smh.com.au/technology/biz-tech/platform-deposes-king-content-in-iptv-world-
20091110-i6oa.html
7. http://www.ieee.org/organizations/society/bt/iptv1.pdf
8. http://www.ipdr.org/public/Service_Specifications/3.X/IPTV3.5-A.0.0.pdf
9. http://www.exfo.com/en/Library/WaveReview/WRArticle.aspx?Id=158
10. http://www.klicktv.co.uk/video-distribution-and-signage/video-on-demand/
11. http://iptvpavilion.com/news/network-pvr-iptv-0414/
12. http://www.anevia.com/anevia.php?rubrique104
13. http://www.iptvinformation.net/CategoryView,category,PVR.aspx
14. http://www.ccpu.com/articles/2007/addressing-the-bandwidth-demands-of-iptv/
15. http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/worksem/h325/200605/presentations/s4p6-hedayat.pdf
16. http://cp.literature.agilent.com/litweb/pdf/5989-4051EN.pdf
17. http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/06/16/T06160000070001PDFE.pdf
18. http://www.scribd.com/doc/6795291/NGN-IP-TV-Solution-Implementation
19. http://broadcastengineering.com/RF/broadcasting_iptv_nextgeneration_delivery/
20. http://www.iptv.com.au/what-is-iptv/
21. http://www.ebu.ch/fr/technical/trev/trev_312-kernen_QoE.pdf
22. http://www.openiptvforum.org/docs/OIPF-T1-R1-Functional%20Architecture-V1_0-2007-
09-20.pdf
23. http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/video/ps7191/ps7127/prod_white_paper090
0aecd80653f8c_ns610_Networking_Solutions_White_Paper.html
24. http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/technical-documentation/h2466-2-iptv-ref-
arch.pdf
25. http://www.envivio.com/files/white-papers/RTPvsTS-v4.pdf
26. http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/medianet/docs/article_medianet_2015timeframe.pdf
27. http://www.dolby.com/professional/technology/iptv.html
28. http://www.linktionary.com/t/transport.html
29. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20060230176.pdf
30. http://download.microsoft.com/download/a/0/c/a0cdabf4-ca7e-4e0b-9aed-
f25c7113d6ac/Delivering_IPTV.doc
31. http://www.huawei.com/publications/view.do?id=902&cid=942&pid=61
32. http://www.castify.net/white_papers/pdf/qos_measurement_whitepaper_cbn.pdf
33. http://front.sjtu.edu.cn/datacomm/reader/IPTV%20service%20assurance.pdf
34. http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/IPTV/events/072006/docs/ID/FGIPTV-ID-0023e.doc
35. http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/newslog/Settop+Box+Recommendations+Approved.aspx
36. http://download.microsoft.com/.../IP_Set-top_Boxes_Whitepaper%20v2.doc
37. http://www.castify.net/white_papers/pdf/qos_measurement_whitepaper_cbn.pdf
38. http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CBcQFjAA&url=http
%3A%2F%2Fwww.itu.int%2FITU-T%2FIPTV%2Fevents%2F072006%2Fdocs%2FID%2FFGIPTV-
ID-0035e.doc&rct=j&q=FG+IPTV-ID-
0035e&ei=XVX6S8T8DtePcLuZkOcL&usg=AFQjCNEZZjoZsF0kQL-y2su9tU2iZpFxZA
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39. http://www.hit.bme.hu/~jakab/edu/litr/IPTV/IPTV_IEEE_Com_Mag_01705994.pdf
40. http://www.acma.gov.au/webwr/_assets/main/lib310210/iptv_and_internet_video_in_aust
.pdf
41. http://snurb.info/node/1051
42. http://www.isma.tv/technology/white-papers/Paper-IBC-FleuryJF_finalPROTECTED.pdf
43. http://www.videoageinternational.com/articles/2007/04/threestories.html

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