The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced the first set of global standards for Internet Protocol television (IPTV). IPTV is one of the most visible services to emerge as part of the development of next-generation networks (NGN) – even as both the business case and principal driver for accelerating deployment of NGN.
The new standards were developed by the Focus Group on IPTV (FG IPTV) in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).
Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau, says: "Standards are crucial for IPTV to reach its market potential and global audience. They are necessary in order to give service providers — whether traditional broadcasters, ISPs, cable operators or telecoms service providers — control over their platforms and their offerings. Standards here will encourage innovation, help mask the complexity of services, guarantee quality of service, ensure interoperability and, ultimately, help players remain competitive."
The announcement follows the seventh and final meeting of FG IPTV hosted in Malta by the Maltese Ministry for Competitiveness and Communications.
Censu Galea, Minister for Competitiveness and Communications, explains: "The stage of work that sees completion this week lays the groundwork for an area of ICT that some predict could attract up to 100-million subscribers in the next three years. It’s easy to see why so many of the world’s key ICT companies have been keen to progress this work in ITU."
Contained within the documents produced by the Focus Group are the high-level architecture and frameworks needed by service providers in order to rollout IPTV services. ITU’s next phase of IPTV work — IPTV-GSI (global standards initiative) — will centre on the speedy preparation of standards based on documents produced by FG IPTV as well as on the detailed protocols required.
The 2006−2007 period has seen numerous physical and electronic meetings and workshops progressing work on IPTV around the world. Twenty-one documents covering IPTV requirements, architecture, quality of service (QoS), security, digital rights management (DRM), unicast and multicast, protocols, metadata, middleware and home networks will be submitted to the ITU-T Study Group charged with progressing and distributing the work. The IPTV-GSI will build on the momentum generated over the past 20 months, and it is foreseen that contributions and participation will continue to increase.
Operators consider IPTV a key element of a triple-play package of voice, video and data services. Standardization is imperative if service providers are to offer high quality products with value-additions, such as video-on-demand services that will inevitably drive the market. A combination of voice, Internet and video services over a single broadband link and from a single provider is foreseen as the ultimate goal of the broadband revolution.
FG IPTV benefited from collaboration with all ITU-T Study Groups and other forums and regional standards bodies, including ATIS IPTV Interoperability Forum (IIF), DSL Forum, the DVB project, ETSI TISPAN and the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI).