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February 15, 2007

Report Calls For Higher IPTV Video Quality

By Spencer D. Chin, TMCnet Web Editor

The road to success for IPTV operators is paved with obstacles such as compromised video quality and packet flow, according to a study by MRG Inc. titled  “IPTV (News - Alert) Video Quality:QoS and QoE—2006”.
The study addresses these issues by focusing on what it terms the seven domains of influence in the video value chain, and by honing in on any one of them to expose the best practices to identify and solve QoS (quality of service) issues.
It concludes that IPTV service providers must address video quality, video quality of service, and quality of experience issues to win and retain subscribers.
Much of the report covers MPEG-4 AVC, as new IPTV systems are expected to follow this standard in the future.
The report said that service operators must not only engineer their networks more deliberately and monitor them more carefully than before, they must become familiarize themselves with various IPTV infrastructure components. Complicating matters is the relative immaturity of crucial IPTV infrastructure and service-enabling elements and their unproven record in scaled production deployments.
Another factor is that the complexity of an IPTV ecosystem makes implementing IPTV expensive. Many operators assume an oversubscription model that minimizes capital equipment and software costs at deployment, rather than try to accommodate peak demands, the report noted.
Consequently, operators are forced to balance video quality against scarce infrastructure resources while trying to keep subscribers. Video quality factors include encoding, streaming bit rates, video transport methods, and decoding.
The report concluded that network errors comprised the bulk of quality of service and quality of experience issues. Quality of service parameters go beyond datacomm issues such as cyclical redundancy checking, to accommodate long sessions and various content.
A dearth of IPTV quality standards has also complicated matters for operators. The study concluded that architectural standards, test metrics, and implementation best practices are either offshoots from non-IPTV standards, still being proposed, or lacking altogether. Current standards also aim at IP voice rather than video, said the report.
Companies contributing to the report include Alcatel-Lucent, Amino, AT&T, Cisco/Scientific Atlanta, Harmonic, Harris, Modulus, Motorola (News - Alert), Tandberg, Optibase, Siemens/Myrio, Spirient, Thomson, Verimatrix, and Widevine.
The report is available for $1,195 as a printed version or for $2,995 as a PDF. It is also available free as part of MRG’s IPTV tracking service.
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Spencer Chin is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of his articles, please visit his
columnist page.

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