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Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) delivers television programming to households via a broadband connection using Internet protocols. It requires a subscription and a set-top box, and offers key advantages over existing TV cable and satellite technologies. IPTV is typically bundled with other services like Video on Demand (VOD), voice over IP (VOIP) or digital phone, and Web access, collectively referred to as Triple Play.
Because IPTV arrives over telephone lines, telephone companies are in a prime position to offer these services initially, but it is expected that other carriers will offer the technology in the future. IPTV promises more efficient streaming than present technologies, and therefore theoretically reduced prices to operators and subscribers alike. However, it also adds many advantages that may play into market pricing.
One of the advantages of IPTV is the ability for digital video recorders (DVRs) to record multiple broadcasts at once. According to one leading provider, it will also be easier to find favorite programs by using "custom view guides." It even allows for picture-in-picture viewing without the need for multiple tuners.
IPTV viewers will have full control over functionality such as rewind, fast-forward, pause, and so on. Using a cell phone or PDA, a subscriber might even utilize remote programming. For example, if a dinner function runs longer than expected, a person doesn't have to miss his favorite program. He can just call home and remotely set the IPTV box to record it.
However, the real advantage of IPTV is that it uses Internet protocols to provide two-way communication for interactive television. One application might be in game shows in which the studio audience is asked to participate by helping a contestant choose between answers. IPTV opens the door to real-time participation from people watching at home. Another application would be the ability to turn on multiple angles of an event, such as a touchdown, and watch it from dual angles simultaneously using picture-in-picture viewing.
One can also receive Web service notifications while watching IPTV for things such as incoming email and instant messages. If it is packaged with digital phone, caller ID might pop up on screen as the telephone rings.
IPTV is growing in the international market, with providers in many countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It is also available in some markets in the United States.