Just when you think you understand your world, it gets sideswiped by something you didn’t see coming. This is true of the impending collision – or convergence – of the telecom and broadcast industries.
Having spent the last decade-plus in IP and telecom, I had been firmly entrenched in telecom’s pervasive IMS standard. For those not familiar with it, IP Multimedia Subsystem is an architectural framework for delivering IP multimedia services. It was created by the 3GPP organization to evolve mobile networks beyond GSM – and is intended for voice, data and video of any kind – for any purpose or need.
The protocol that drives IMS is called “SIP,” or Session Initiation Protocol. SIP is used to control multimedia sessions such as voice and video calls over IP, with applications that include unicast and multicast video, video conferencing, streaming multimedia, and file transfer. By definition, SIP is session-based. You negotiate many parameters to set up a session, you have the session, and then you tear it down – considerably different than linear TV.
Beyond a handful of video and IPTV experts within the various telecom operators, many of my peers in telecom just assumed that all multimedia communications would be SIP-based, but most of us did not peer over the fence at linear broadcast TV. Indeed, we had little awareness that SMPTE, NTSC, SCTE, IEEE, VSF, and others had long-defined how television signals and content were created, managed, processed and transported from end to end. SIP and IMS – well, they just weren’t a part of that world.
Therein lies the interesting and ongoing collision – or maybe convergence. Many telecom operators are now finding that “Broadcast” is an interesting space. Most already have deployed IPTV Headends with some broadcast equipment, and provide services over their fixed networks. However, across the globe they are now saying: “My IPTV customers love their service, but how do I give them IPTV everywhere, including access to linear TV – local news, sports, etc. – via the Internet or their mobile devices?”
Answering this is not as easy as simply pushing local and national broadcast channels over a fixed or mobile IP link. For example, bandwidth varies from second to second and link to link, which requires Adaptive Bit Rate transcoding as well as packaging for the type of device and screen size. These are just a few of the many broadcast-related variables that come into play.
So what should a telecom operator do? Well, they should begin looking holistically about the signal flow all the way from content origination to the user’s experience. They should understand not just the media processing load but also the simultaneous peak usage, content delivery network requirements, and the device types to be supported. They should also find a vendor who fully understands the broadcast TV business and has a good handle on solutions that enable linear TV over unmanaged or bandwidth-constrained networks like the Internet or mobile networks. Imagine Communications is here to help you manage through all of this new complexity and allow you to navigate a successful and profitable transition to true TV Everywhere services.