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March 2007
Volume 10 / Number 3

Fixed Mobile Entertainment:
The Evolution to Mobile IPTV

By Brian Caskey, Feature Articles


IPTV is rapidly gaining exposure as the most important application for breathing new life and revenues into fixed-line broadband networks. At the same time, mobile users are rapidly expanding beyond the basic services enabled by cell phones — voice, text messaging and voice mail — to digital media of all sorts, including video. Thus it seems only natural that as IPTV technology matures, IPTV services will be deployed over wireless broadband networks for viewing on mobile devices. But how will the evolution of IPTV from fixed to mobile networks occur? The answer, in a nutshell, is the next generation network (NGN) with a softswitch at its core.

Wireless is the fastest-growing communications technology and is evolving as people look for better ways to communicate. The NGN, which originally replaced Class 5 switches to provide call control for local and long-distance calls in the fixed-line infrastructure — and which also provides a basis for IP services — has now become part of the wireless infrastructure as well. With an NGN in place, operators can start thinking about the next step in services, and IPTV in the home looks interesting. But why stop there? Why not drive IPTV to the handset? That will require fixed mobile convergence (FMC), providing the best coverage wherever the subscriber is located, including spotty indoor locations.

This combination of FMC, wireless, and IPTV bundled together with the NGN at the network core will enable the evolution of a new concept called Fixed Mobile Entertainment (FME) — communications and multimedia access anywhere. The NGN is the hub, providing a common infrastructure for both wireless and fixed-wire infrastructures and both local and long-distance services. Once in place, the NGN also sets the foundation for IPTV, since it not only provides telecontrol but also enables the required back office functions such as billing support, office administration, and customer support — plus all the things that allow subscribers to interact with IPTV programming.


Getting IPTV to Subscribers

The NGN may provide a foundation for IPTV, but the question then becomes how to get IPTV out to wireless subscribers and provide them with the best coverage. Again the NGN is the solution; because it is a softswitch, it can communicate with IP users. These users may be on different networks, GSM or CDMA for example, but that poses no problem because carriers can use the NGN to peer into a wide variety of existing legacy networks — and now they can communicate IPTV or any other IP service anywhere. Tier 1 service providers can use the NGN to compete with cable companies, reduce churn, increase revenues, and pick up new subscribers by offering the triple play of phone service, highspeed Internet service, and IPTV to wireline customers.

The next step is to deliver rich IPTV, just like that available in the home, to wireless-enabled devices and handsets, which requires convergence. Ideally, a subscriber should be able to access IPTV and other applications and services at any time, from any place, regardless of whether the connection is wireless, broadband, wireline, or IP. And the IPTV service should be so simple that when you are watching your favorite TV show at home, the media should be able to follow you. If you have to leave the house, you should be able to transition the show from your home network to your handset (which is served by a GSM network) so you can watch it on the train to work. And you can still check your voice mail or email from the same device.


Access: Hard Decision or Easy Choice?

This all sounds great, but from the operator’s perspective, implementing such a service does not appear to be straightforward. Multiple methods have been proposed for delivering IPTV to mobile devices, including the ETSI Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H) standard, MediaFLO technology, TD-CDMA, WCDMA, and WiMAX. Operators must weigh these choices against such factors as time-tomarket considerations, equity in their existing network infrastructure, and cost of deployment before they make any decision.

Again, NGN comes to the rescue. NGN is access agnostic; UTStarcom’s mSwitch® softswitch, for example, can provide a mix and match of voice, broadband, and video and can support any type of encoding technology. The NGN should be able to regard anything as simply payload going across the network. It is actually more important for operators to focus on the fact that they need a platform that will allow them to use any access method. Moving a favorite TV show from your WiFi network at home to a GSMCDMA wireless network outdoors to another CDMA or WiFi network at the office requires a solution that crosses access transport boundaries seamlessly.

That requires NGN plus IP plus an FMC solution that enables transparent interconnection to both fixed-line and cellular networks and that eliminates the need for a major overhaul of existing infrastructure. But moving to FMC can be a tough decision for an operator that has already made an investment in NGN and offers some IP service, and has also invested in a GSM or CDMA network. No operator wants to pull the plug on its existing networks to invest in an entirely new infrastructure. This problem is solved with an NGN/FMC platform that can provide peering between an operator’s disparate networks, enabling customers to transition seamlessly from one to another. And with an NGN/FMC platform, operators can enable IP call control across any platform. Now they have a foundation for delivering IPTV over any network, whether broadband, wireless, and even to the handset. An NGN/FMC platform also eliminates time-to-market considerations for a variety of services, because no matter what the operator offers, the platform can start to make FMC happen right away. In total, these steps define the transition to FME, at which point operators have a framework that allows them to do almost anything they want to.


But Can Operators Afford FME?

Some telephone companies are concerned that they will not be able to afford the capital expenditure associated with FME. However, operators with fixed and mobile networks will need to make the investment in peering in any case. In addition, once they have an NGN/FMC platform, they can immediately start generating revenue on the services they offer across the network. With an NGN core, operators can bundle traditional local and long distance services, wireless service, IPTV, and mobile entertainment and deliver them over a unified infrastructure. Operators no longer have one network over which they provide service; they have one network over which they provide multiple services — and the ROI of such a model is powerful. Depending on the subscriber base and the services invoked, achieving ROI can drop from the traditional 12-18 months to as little as three to six months.

traditional local and long distance services, wireless service, IPTV, and mobile entertainment and deliver them over a unified infrastructure. Operators no longer have one network over which they provide service; they have one network over which they provide multiple services — and the ROI of such a model is powerful. Depending on the subscriber base and the services invoked, achieving ROI can drop from the traditional 12-18 months to as little as three to six months.


Stepping Up to Streaming Media

FMC also offers another bonus — it is the first step to true streaming media, which is essential to offering a full array of FME services. Today, video is streamed to and stored in a set-top box (STB) in the home, and users manipulate it by controlling the STB’s hard drive. But users want more than that; they want on-demand broadcast and time-shift TV. Streaming-mediaon- demand allows the consumer to engage with the media itself, to say “I want to watch this video, this TV broadcast, right now” — and do it. Streaming media also lets consumers manipulate live TV; they can pause, stop, fast forward, even stop for 24 hours and come back to the exact point where they left off.

Streaming media eliminates the need for the STB; instead, media can be sent anywhere — to an Internet TV or a PC that has the right client software, or to a wireless device like the iPod or handset. Consumers have total control over what they want to see, when they want to see it, and the device they want to see it on. With FMC providing the connectivity, a subscriber watching a hockey game at home on a TV can seamlessly transition to a wireless device when he leaves home. Just key in a sequence of numbers and you have forced a change of IP address from the TV to the handset. With streaming media, we’ve arrived at the ne plus ultra of FME — mobile IPTV.

While mobile TV is not yet here, complete end-to-end IPTV systems are available now. For example, UTStarcom’s RollingStream™, an endto- end platform for fully interactive broadband TV and VOD, encompasses everything from an STB, to a media station streaming and storage server for CO deployment, a content engine that encodes and trans-codes live or stored media, authentication and DRM servers, an OSS, and a network management system. Such end-to-end IPTV solutions are very attractive to operators because developing an IPTV system is complex and difficult.

Operators need to think in terms of providing excellent service to hundreds of thousands or even millions of consumers. A UTStarcom customer in China has an IPTV platform that is serving about 200,000 customers now and has the capacity to support up to 500,000 users. The service, whether fixed or mobile, should provide a better, less expensive experience than the consumer has today. And operators need a solution that is highly scalable, offers simple and seamless growth, that lets them drive service to both fixed broadband and wireless customers, and does not require that they replace their infrastructure.


IP Everything

IP is behind the entire network evolution just described. All the individual elements of the evolution drive in one direction — the convergence of IP in all things, IPTV, broadband TV, IP mobile, streaming media, with much, much more to come.

Brian Caskey is the Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at UTStarcom, Inc. (news - alert) For more information, visit the company online at



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