IPTV in the Fast Lane

Carl Weinschenk

Few people doubt that the video's future-indeed, to a great extent, its present-is on the Internet. The ability to send programs over the Net, or any other Internet Protocol (IP) network, is being buttressed by at least three converging trends:


  • There is more bandwidth available than ever before.
  • The ability, called compression, to squeeze humongous loads of data into teensy-weensy-enough streams that it flows easily over existing networks.
  • Current (and perhaps temporary) business models, in which everything is free or exceedingly low cost to the end user, fuel demand.


Clearly, this is a huge threat to the quaint world of cable and telco television. And, judging by various recent reports, the potential danger is becoming a real trend.


A few days ago, for instance, Strategy Analytics said that IPTV subscriptions will explode from 30 million this year to 68 million by end of 2014. The release says western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will lead the charge. The press release suggests, however, that carriers need to work hard to make the rosy projections become real.

iSuppli breaks out China as a distinct category
and looks at its IPTV growth. The firm tracks some pretty heady growth: From 4.4 million subscribers last year to 8.5 million this year. By 2014, it says, there will be more than 31 million IPTV subscribers in the nation. The press release provides a primer on how the technology will evolve. It says the rules issued by the Chinese government favor ISPs and broadcasters over telecom carriers. The growth, the release suggests, will occur as the uneven distribution of subscribers equalizes.

A third study-this one by Point Topic for the Broadband Forum-offers much the same message. It says that 2009 ended with 10.8 million more IPTV subscribers than when it dawned. The total was 33 million, a 47 percent increase over 2008, with each quarter beating its year-ago quarter. The final quarter's growth rate of 11 percent was the best. The firm also found that Asian nations-it points specifically to South Korea and China-had strong years. Point Topic also notes growth in North America, though Central and South America didn't fare as well. France, the story says, was a bright spot in Europe. Growth is just starting, the piece says, in the Middle East and Africa.

There are no figures and relatively few facts in this commentary written for the Streaming Media site. It's entertaining, though (the writer actually calls most of the attendees at the IPTV World Forum in London "idiots") and makes a good point. The writer, who claims to have worked in the industry for 16 years, spends the first part of the piece whining -- if he can call people idiots, I can call him a whiner -- about the lack of knowledge that chacterizes the people he saw at the show. These folks, he surmises, are newbies who have emigrated from the telecom industry. This clearly jibes with the idea that IPTV is growing while telco TV is, at best, stagnant.


The three analyst houses-Strategy Analytics, iSuppli and Point Topic-all are bullish on IPTV. So, in a more round-about way, is the angry show-goer-who seems annoyed that his industry is taking off.

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