How an IPTV TV System compares to Cable, Satellite, and OTT

Hospitality TV Hotel TV

There is a variety of different TV system available on the market today. There’s Cable TV, Satellite TV, IPTV, and, last but not least, OTT (over-the-top) streaming as well. And making the right decision about which TV connection is best for your situation can be very difficult. Especially when there is more at stake than just your personal preference.
Usually, more options mean more power to the consumer. However, that is only true if you understand the specifics of each TV connection well enough to make an informed decision.

The basics of TV

There are a few methods to play television programming on your TV screen. You can go the traditional route and connect to broadcast network, you can stream only the desired content over the internet, or you can set up a dedicated IPTV system and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Applicable broadcast networks:
● Satellite TV
● Cable TV

Broadcast networks, as the name implies, broadcast television programming from a distribution center and let you “tune in” to channels, which the broadcast signal carries. To achieve that, cable TV providers utilize a dedicated physical network that is interconnected with a coaxial cable. Satellite TV, on the other hand, relies on radio waves, which travel by air from a communications satellite directly to the consumer’s location where they are picked up by a satellite dish.

Applicable Internet networks:
● IPTV
● OTT Streaming

Unlike cable and satellite that broadcast content in real time, IP networks operate by transferring packets of data from the server to the end user’s device only upon request. This principle is known as the Internet protocol and also delivers your email, serves your websites, and enables you to use various other cloud services.

Both IPTV and OTT services provide content by utilizing the same Internet Protocol, so they are very similar in that regard. However, they differ in the way they distribute content. OTT basically streams over the Internet, while IPTV requires a private, dedicated network.

Primarily IPTV and OTT services stream content that is stored on the server, allowing users to request the content over the Internet at any time. However, a dedicated IPTV system can do both and that’s where it really shines.

Television network types

IPTV
Even if you’ve never heard of IPTV before there’s a good chance you’ve already used it without even knowing it. Actually, anyone who has watched live TV channels or a Video on Demand through their digital television service has experienced IPTV in its essential form. Due to its attractive features and future-proof technology, IPTV has reached a point where it is now a very attractive alternative to cable or digital broadcast satellite, so it’s worth examining in more detail.

In simple terms, IPTV refers to a means of distributing both live TV and stored video (on-demand or pay-per-view) to the end user in the same fashion in which internet content is sent, and over the exact same network.

It’s a different way of distributing broadcast-quality content to consumers. Broadcast quality content, in this case, indicates to all the features consumers have come to expect from their digital television service provider, including your beloved channels in HD quality. From the user’s perspective, IPTV provides a similar experience to conventional cable or satellite. Switch on the TV, use the remote to select a channel, and enjoy the program. However, since IPTV uses the Internet Protocol to deliver digital content, service providers have soon realized they can integrate different services across platforms, which brings a convergence of voice, data, and television over the same network, all using the same language, through one provider.

Cable
Many, if not all, cable systems that are used today are hybrid fiber-coaxial networks. These are fundamentally the same as the hybrid fiber-coaxial network that delivers broadband cable Internet to your home.

However, before the signal reaches your home, it travels from a communication satellite to your cable provider’s distribution center, or headend, in a form of radio waves. At the headend, the radio signal is modulated for distribution over a fiber optic cable, which then transmits the signal with blazing speed over a physical network.

Fibre optics carry the signal with your television channels along with your Internet data all the way to a communication node in your neighborhood where the network crosses over from fiber to coaxial cables. To illustrate more clearly, you can look at the main fiber line as a tree and the individual copper coaxial cables as the branches that spread out to individual units that area. This is the main reason why cable connections are referred to as shared connections.

Before the signal is transmitted your home it is demodulated at the local node so it can continue over coaxial cables. The end destination of that signal is an IPTV TV system, your Set Top Box, or the television itself, provided it’s equipped with the hardware and software that’s required to decode the incoming data to video and audio for the television to play. A specific frequency is reserved for each channel in your cable plan, and by switching between them you’re actually tuning in to those frequencies.

Ever wondered how your cable company is preventing you from accessing all the channels on offer? In the analog days it was scrambled signals, but in the digital age, encryption is used to manage subscription access. Before it leaves the cable provider’s distribution center, the signal is encrypted and decrypted at the user’s end using keys. Web security works in a very similar way frequently switching between many encryption approaches to prevent hacking. It’s noteworthy that analog cable signal delivery greatly differs from digital, which now dominates the market.

Satellite
We’ve already learned that cable TV providers pick up satellite broadcasts in the initial stage of their distribution network, before sending the signal over a physical line to their end users. Satellite TV providers, on the other hand, broadcasts a wireless signal from the satellite to the end user’s receiving satellite dish. Nowadays, satellite TV comes in two forms: TVRO (television receive-only) and DBS (direct broadcast satellite, or “direct to home” DBSTV).

Generally speaking, TVRO technology is a bit older than DBS. This is evident by the significantly smaller dish DBS needs to receive a 100% high-frequency digital signal, as opposed to the much larger dish that’s needed to catch the low-frequency, digital/analog TVRO broadcasts. Satellite TV shares the satellite radio bandwidth with cell phone signal and radar systems within 3-30 GHz.

From the satellite dish, the signal travels either to a dedicated IPTV system headend or directly to the end user’s Set Top Box, which decodes and displays the content. Much like cable TV, channels are encrypted to prevent uncontrolled access.

So far, satellite TV sounds very promising, but it’s not entirely without flaws. Due to the use of high-frequency radio waves, the signal is more susceptive to interference. In spite of that, satellite TV is generally the best choice for areas where a physical connection is simply not possible.

OTT Streaming
Netflix, HBO now, and Roku are among well known OTT content providers available today. What’s interesting about them is that they deliver content differently from what we’ve seen so far. Since they don’t own proprietary infrastructure, these third-party providers can’t broadcast content in the traditional sense. Instead, they stream only purchased and requested content directly to the end user’s device over the same infrastructure that connects the user to the internet.

Streaming high-quality video requires a reliable internet connection with enough bandwidth to support email exchange, web browsing, and other internet activities at the same time. Luckily, broadband and fiber technologies have rapidly advanced in recent years and overcome that technical hurdle. In fact, as of 2015, over 70% of Internet traffic in the US was streamed video and audio content, indicating a bright future for OTT streaming.

Due to the inherent nature of the Internet, OTT streaming faces the same problems as any other internet based service. Long loading times, decreased speeds due to multiple connections, and improper set-up of home wireless networks all affect the quality of OTT content streaming experience.

Issues like these have fueled the development of complex systems for managing streaming data. When downloading a generic file from the Internet like an image, you always have to wait for the file to download as a whole. Streaming video is very different from that.

Content is split into smaller fragments and delivered sequentially starting at the requested time point. The smaller data fragments allow for quick transfer so the content is displayed almost instantly. Occasionally the streaming device will say it’s “buffering”, but that simply means there’s been a brief data transfer drop.

To ensure the best possible streaming experience for the majority of network connections types, OTT content providers package video and audio content into media containers, which can be split into small fragments. With the help of a time-based transfer protocol, the media container fragments and then continuously streamed to the end user.

Is IPTV better than other TV System ‘s?

There is an enormous amount of information to analyze and compare in order to determine whether an IPTV TV system really is better than other alternatives. But that’s not the goal here. Instead, let’s concentrate on a few key areas that already make IPTV superior and ready for the future.

The first and arguably the most important is the infrastructure that makes it all a reality. Fiber optics technology has developed to a point where it outperforms every other network type. The exceptional bandwidth that fiber provides over copper and DBS is the main reason why IPTV is able to support “uncompressed” and “source-quality” HD.

How about channel quantity? Large establishments like hotels where there are hundreds of guests with different preferences will benefit from the fact that the fiber network allows for an IPTV TV system with practically an infinite number of channels.

Speaking of hotels, just about any existing Hotel TV system can be upgraded with IPTV technology. Ideally, CAT5/CAT6 or fiber cables are installed because they allow easy connectivity of IPTV equipment. However, an existing Coax network can be used as well because it is also suited for IP data transmission.

There’s more than meets the eye

Making the transition from an analog TV system to an IPTV TV system is often referred to as “going digital”. And more often than not, the main concern is the image quality on the TV screen. Is a digital image really that much better compared to an analog?

In reality, it is very hard to notice a difference when comparing an image that’s provided by premium analog equipment and a “digital” image on the TV screen. But image quality shouldn’t be the main reason for switching to an IPTV TV system as there are a number of other benefits, which might not be apparent right away:

Simplicity

A typical  IPTV headend is a very small and unsophisticated piece of hardware, which translates to easy maintenance. In addition, it consumes less power, is produces less noise, it produces less heat, and it uses up less space than traditional analog solutions.

Solution Management

Because all devices in the IPTV TV system communicate with one another using the IP protocol, it is possible to control all aspects of the system very quickly and efficiently using a web browser and a user-friendly interface.

Diagnostics and Alarms

An IPTV headend can immediately notify you about potential issues throughout the system. Let’s say the signal level from the dishes is getting too low, or the TV signal went black in one of the guest’s rooms. The system will tell you exactly where and why the issue occurred, so you can quickly intervene to prevent channel down time and unhappy guests.

Stable Quality

Unlike analog solutions, a digital IPTV TV system is not affected by noise, signal interference, or network drifting. Once the system is established, it will constantly deliver a high-quality audio/video experience to all connected devices.

Infrastructure Solutions

Wherever possible, CAT5/6 or fiber cables are installed to ensure the best digital signal transfer. Analogue headends are not compatible with CAT5/6 cables, however, digital headends can be connected to existing coax, fiber, and CAT5/6 networks.

Added Services

An IPTV TV system has the ability to offer a myriad of additional features which are not possible with analog systems. Electronic Program Guide (EPG), Catchup, Timeshift, Audio language selections, and Subtitle selection are just a few examples. It’s also possible to upsell services, which enables guests in a hotel to order food via their TV screen.

High Definition (HD) Channels

IPTV can handle as many HD TV channel broadcasts as needed. The IPTV headend decrypts the incoming signal and distributes the content to all connected devices. This is a big advantage over analog solutions, where HD format is out of reach due to the use of central analog decoders and modulators.

Power Consumption

Even the most up-to-date analog headends can consume about 20W per channel, which translates to 2000 watts of power for 100 channels. That is a big contrast to an IPTV headend that consumes 300 watts while being able to handle 200 TV channels. Consequently, the electricity costs will be significantly lower with an IPTV TV system.

Technology convergence

Remember when VoIP became available? Consumers world-wide quickly recognized the benefits of this new technology because it enabled them to access and control their phone service using the internet. And it was made possible by converging just two technologies: voice and data.

Now try to imagine the possibilities that could become available by converging voice, data, wireless, and digital television. It’s simply mind-blowing to think that you could control your TV by giving voice commands using your phone. Or customizing your TV to display internet- like up to date information about the weather, stocks, and traffic reports.

By combining TV channels and video on demand through Internet Protocol, an updated fiber optic infrastructure, a wireless network, and convergence of services, IPTV has the potential like no other system available on the market today. Be it a household, a cruise ship or a hotel, users all over the world are able to enjoy the latest content, interact, and communicate at the same time, all just through one IPTV TV system.

A glimpse into the future

While most television networks still have their place in the market, the future will bring a larger demand for high-quality content and integration with third-party services, which currently only IPTV can support. With a range cutting edge IPTV products that are essential for any IPTV project to be carried out successfully, Nevron is ready for the future! If you would like to learn more about our solutions, please fill the form on our website or send us an email on nevron@nevron.eu. One of Nevron’s experienced IPTV consultants will get in touch with you shortly to help you choose the best solution for your needs.

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