Virtually every prediction we've run across suggests that Internet Protocol Television will be a resounding success. The latest is this iSuppli prognostication, reported on at TMCNet.com, that says IPTV will grow from $779.2 million last year to $26.3 billion in 2011. That's a factor of almost 34.
It's unclear from the story precisely how iSuppli defines IPTV. The sense is that that number includes at least some applications that aren't what today's couch potatoes would call a television service. For instance, the story references digital music and on-demand gaming.
The true potential of IPTV -- which AT&T, Verizon, other telcos and cable operators clearly see -- is startling. This piece at Daily IPTV maps out some of the innovative services that could emerge. They include interactive health care, video buddy lists, real-time video chat, live polls and others. Indeed, the list seems only limited by marketers' legendarily limitless imaginations. The point is that once the networks are in place, the upside potential is tremendous.
This makes IPTV a three-way killer app. The first way is the most obvious: Scads of people will use IPTV to get the services they receive over the free airwaves, cable and satellite today. That's something of a no-brainer. For instance, this press release from Pyramid Research says IPTV may become the preferred conduit for the video-on-demand services championed by the cable industry. The second element is that people will be attracted to new services that are impossible or less than ideally delivered by traditional means. The third is non-video applications that can ride on the IPTV infrastructure.
That's a lot of potential, and service providers who want to take advantage of it must create great networks. They clearly will have the motivation to do this. Seen in this light, IPTV becomes two things: an extended family of lucrative applications and an agent of transformation for networks.
In many cases, the difference between a robust network and one that is limping along isn't dramatic. Perhaps the addition of some specialized equipment -- such as this router from Juniper that is customized to deliver highly targeted advertising, another revenue opportunity that will reach its zenith with IPTV -- will do the trick. The lure of IPTV may convince service providers that are straddling the line between robust and marginal networks to make the necessary investments.