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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Broadband to rule the TV waves
By Jo Twist
BBC News technology reporter

Image of family watching video on demand
IPTV will offer a lot more choice and interactivity
TV delivered into living rooms over broadband connections will completely change TV as well as the internet as we know it, concludes a major report.

IPTV (internet protocol TV), as it is known, is a budding area that is exciting telecoms and media companies.

Within a decade, says the report from Lovelace Consulting and informitv, TV delivered to sets over the net will be an established way to receive content.

TV will be much more web-like, with millions of shows to download.

Within five years, the authors predict, many households will have their TV piped through a satellite dish, rooftop aerial or cable network, and through a broadband phone line.

TVs will be hooked up to set-top boxes which are in turn hooked up to the broadband pipe too. The broadcast and on-demand programmes it will be able to receive will be in standard as well as high-definition formats.

'Limitless selection'

"New players will exploit the disruptive power of the internet and change the form and function of television forever," said Dr William Cooper, co-author of the report.

There is a willingness of TV broadcasters to extend their reach and they are joining with telcos in that environment
Jean-Christophe Dessange, Cisco
"Broadband television will ultimately adopt the attributes of the web, providing access to an almost limitless selection of programmes."

IPTV does not rely on the limited broadcast network to transmit programmes. It used internet technology so there is a limitless capacity for more programmes.

Up until now, the report suggests, net-based innovations and developments in digital TV were more or less separate worlds.

But now, the two are very much converging and some even suggest that the majority of video and audio content will be received in households over the net in the longer term, according to the report.

In your hands

The technology is currently more widespread in the rest Europe than in the UK because of faster and cheaper broadband.

But this is changing as UK net service providers up the minimum speeds of connections and prices fall.

NTL, for instance, is to boost the basic entry level for its broadband subscribers to 10Mbps next year.

High-definition plasma screens
Our TVs will become a lot more interesting bits of kit
"The 'pull' of broadband network television will replace the 'push' of traditional broadcast television," explained co-author Graham Lovelace.

This means that the control of what programmes and content is available to watch will move out of the hands of the traditional broadcasters and into the hands of the viewer.

Traditional broadcasters have been wrestling with with technologies such as PVRs (personal video recorders) which allow viewers to take more control over what and when they watch.

But IPTV has the potential to disrupt that even more. Hundreds of different programmes could be sent to different homes at the same time.

Broadband delivery of TV will also change what viewers will be able to do while watching TV.

It provides the perfect platform for genuinely interactive television, according to the report.

Cornerstone year

Jean-Christophe Dessange, broadband entertainment development manager for networking giant Cisco, told the BBC News website that the future possibilities for IPTV are extremely exciting.

"I believe in Europe, 2006 will be a cornerstone, a changing year," he said.

"There is not one telco that does not ask me about IPTV today, and they were the same ones that two years ago that told me it would never work," according to Mr Dessange.

New and more efficient video encoding techniques - the Mpeg4 standard - allow for cost effective transport of video.

Improved infrastructure, as well as the uptake and speed of broadband technologies to deliver it, have also helped.

"There is a willingness of TV broadcasters to extend their reach and they are joining with telcos in that environment," says Mr Dessange.

One of the key areas in the next decade will be interactivity. But it is not just the interactive TV experience that UK digital viewers have now.

CBeebies, the BBC's toddler's channel, as well as sports programmes, have successfully experimented with iTV.

But increasingly, with the latest video encoding technology, viewers will be able to trigger events while they watch video. Or you could choose just to focus on one participant in a TV interview.

If you watch a programme and see a watch you like you could feasibly select it and buy it online while still watching your show.

But the real power of IPTV could be in its convenience and range of choice which the viewer will subsequently have, such as micro-local content.

People could tune into live traffic camera streams, or film their own football teams to put on a local IPTV channel, as they do in Norway.

In Italy, one man uses IPTV to deliver news to the rest of his apartment block; another films himself having breakfast with his blow-up doll.

Whatever the content, Mr Dessange says it is exciting that there are many more new distribution channels.

"People are using BitTorrent and portals, allowing you to have access to movies, Yahoo, Google, MSN. All those guys are grabbing audiences on the net.

"This is at the expense of classic media."

It is a challenge that traditional media need to take seriously, says Mr Dessange, because people only have a specific time period to watch TV, and they are spending some of that time online instead.

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Broadband set to revolutionise TV
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Digital media becomes 'UK norm'
09 Mar 05 |  Technology
TV's future in the hands of viewers
07 Jan 05 |  Technology
Europe backs digital TV lifestyle
07 Dec 04 |  Technology
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18 Jan 05 |  Technology
UK viewers taking control of TV
13 Oct 04 |  Technology

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