It's All Good: Customers Like Telco TV and Cable Phone

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I posted last weekon the importance of IPTV. Not only is it a potentially enormous revenue generator for providers, but it also demands, and will pay for, great network enhancements.

To provide IPTV services to a large population of subscribers -- and television, after all, is a mass market service -- the network must be in great shape.A byproduct of this will be the ability to support all sorts of lucrative but less universal offerings that by themselves wouldn't be able to generate the investment necessary to create such a snappy network.

The same thing is true of VoIP: It's a huge market, but thriving in it requires a sophisticated and airtight network that will support less universal services. These often are collectively referenced in the context of unified communications. For example, video chat alone wouldn't justify significant network upgrades. However, it's a nice add-on if VoIP leads the operator to do the upgrades necessary to support it.

This post, which links to the press release on the study, provides indirect evidence that the service providers are taking the need for robust networks seriously. The post notes that J.D. Power ranks AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS IPTV ahead of cable companies in customer satisfaction. The blogger notes the irony of the fact that the cable companies simultaneously are beating the telcos in phone satisfaction. Both industries are attempting to carve out market share in sectors dominated by the other. To do so requires exceptional service, and this is only possible with top-notch networks.

The potency of telco television is not lost on vendors and service providers. During the past month, two major players -- Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent -- have unveiled IPTV advertising systems. In Alcatel-Lucent's case, according to this xchange story, the system builds on the Triple Play Service Delivery Architecture that was introduced in June. The ad system will facilitate local ad insertion and targeted and interactive advertising.

TechCrunch describes Microsoft's initiative, which is an upgrade of its Mediaroom IPTV Platform. The goal is to increase advertising opportunities, ease the porting of programming to the system and make IPTV more interactive.

The evolution of an application such as IPTV -- one that is designed to eventually be nearly ubiquitous -- happens on at least two levels. One is the underlying structure of the network. Simply, the basic plumbing must be good enough for the mass of data that will need to be trafficked. The other is the application-specific. The two levels overlap, of course, and engineers and planners need to keep abreast of both.

The next step -- and quite a step it is -- will be to settle on standards that will allow the mixing and matching of equipment from different vendors and enable the economies of scale that will be vital to the sector's continued growth. This long Light Reading special report, which is accompanied by a Webinar, looks at IPTV standards efforts from the International Telecommunication Union, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), the Broadband Forum and the Open IPTV Forum.

This meeting of tactics and strategy is good news for broadband service providers. Cable operators, wireless companies or telcos are focusing on the same thing: Providing stable, robust and high-capacity networks.