What is IPTV

What is IPTV television and how does it work?

Have you ever wondered what exactly that IPTV television consists of? What differences exist between IPTV and Internet video technology also called OTT?
If you are familiar with the consumption of TV over the Internet, you may have encountered the term IPTV on more than one occasion. They are the acronym for Internet Protocol Television : it is a system for broadcasting TV signals through broadband connections based on the IP protocolIf you are a user of a Movistar, Vodafone or other telecommunications operator TV package, your TV may work through IPTV, did you know? It is based on the transmission of streaming video signals and represents a significant change in the way in which users access and enjoy the content. While in traditional TV users cannot choose more than among programmed options, in IPTV it is the user who selects the programming, which greatly extends the personalization of content.

Differences between IPTV and OTT

At this point and before delving into IPTV it may be very necessary to differentiate here the concepts of IPTV and OTT, the worldly known as Internet television: IPTV and OTT are two terms that are often confused and used interchangeably but not They are the same, despite being based on the same idea.
OTT is the acronym for Over the top, also known as Internet TV, and refers to streaming video streaming over the networkbut without additional infrastructure, without having a dedicated bandwidth, always conditioned by the device on which it is played and the quality of its connection. Therefore it is a less controlled environment and has a more open nature, there is no minimum quality assured. When you consume Internet TV you are making use of the normal bandwidth of the connection, so you share consumption of the width with web browsing, downloading files and other usual activities of a PC connected to the Internet and you are subject to technical fluctuations of sending and receiving data packets. This model is the one used by popular video on demand applications such as Yomvi, Netflix or Wuaki. Internet TV is available wherever there is a connection.
On the other hand, IPTV is developed in its own private network, a closed and controlled environment that has a dedicated and specific bandwidth, which guarantees the quality of the transmissions as well as offering more channels. In that sense it is similar to traditional satellite or cable TV. Normally, IPTV is in the hands of telecommunications operators that operate in delimited geographical areas and therefore its content can only be accessed if the service is contracted, but as we will see later, it is also accessible from a PC or mobile. Normally, they are secure networks managed by the same service provider that require significant money investments. To watch IPTV you will usually need a decoder, which is provided by the operator that provides the service.
The price is also a decisive difference : while the contents of Internet TV are in many cases free, although the offer of paid content in this model is increasing, a monthly fee for services is usually paid on IPTV.

Technical requirements

For IPTV to work, there are a number of technical requirements, an entire infrastructure that, as we have seen, is provided by the main telephone operators. Nor is it a matter of turning this into an infernal list of technicalities, so it is enough to know some guidance and investigate about them if you really want to know better the technical part of the process:
  • Bandwidth : Broadly speaking, IPTV can be developed on two different types of channels, which require more or less bandwidth, also at the expense of the compression and encoding format used in the video. It is necessary to have a good Internet connection, since it is not the same to have an ADSL connection than a fiber connection. In the first case, 3Mb of the bandwidth contracted for the video signal is always reserved, while in the case of the fiber, the signal goes by its own bandwidth and nothing is subtracted from the contracted capacity. Only in the latter model can the uninterrupted broadcast of HD content be guaranteed regardless of connected devices or tasks being performed.
  • Signal-to-noise ratio greater than 13dB : necessary to guarantee the stability of file transfer. This value the higher it is, the better.
  • Attenuation less than 40dB : larger quantities may cause constant service drops.

Components of an IPTV network

Now we must stop at the main infrastructure components. For an IPTV system to work properly you will need all this:

Signal sources and decoder

First of all you need to take the signal of some content provider that distributes it through the Internet. On this later we will comment a little more, but normally it is the operators who emit the IPTV signal to their subscribers. On the other hand you will need the decoder, which is the device responsible for translating the signal it receives. Depending on the operator, they can provide you with different models and with different features such as content recording and local or online storage, the possibility of moving forward, backward or pausing the broadcast and in some cases until connecting to your PC through Plex. It all depends on the model you have been provided when hiring the service or device you are using to receive the signal.

IPTV operation diagramIPTV operation diagram

Video and audio streaming formats

The choice of video and audio formats in an IPTV system is very important to ensure the stability and quality of transmissions . The most commonly used formats are:
  • H.261 : one of the formats traditionally used and valid for the transmission of video and audio, is the basis of many others.
  • MPEG-1 : with its use a quality similar to that of VHS video is achieved. Its popularity is unquestionable to be fully compatible with computers and DVD players.
  • MPEG-2 : This is the format used by DVDs and ensure a decent quality full screen.
  • H.263 : used primarily for videoconferencing and video telephony.
  • MPEG-4 part 2 : an improvement of MPEG-2.
  • MPEG-4 part 10 : it is the most popular format today in this type of emissions, also known as H264.
  • WMV : owned by Microsoft, used to broadcast video through slow connections and for high definition.

Content Servers

Servers are another very important part of the equation since they are responsible for storing the contents and working as backup copies of them, but not only. We are talking about IP servers capable of sending different video streams and that also use a two-way communication channel so that they can also receive user information, for example when buying a movie or a football match, so they take care of the entire request part of videos on demand. Last but not least, they guarantee the necessary speed for the entire infrastructure using standards such as Gigabit Ethernet.

The popularity of IPTV

Once we have known better what IPTV is and how it works, it is impossible not to ask the question: why is this type of Internet broadcast so popular and why is the proliferation of programs and apps to watch it? Well, neither more nor less than the hacking of content. In recent years there have been many pirated IPTV receivers that, for a small investment, allowed users to hack the signal. IPTV receivers are legal, however it is not sold with pre-installed software that allows hacking the signal directly, and that has been an important business focus in recent times until in 2017 the Court of Justice of the European Union determined that These types of products were not legal.
Nowadays on the Internet you can easily find all kinds of M3U files , which are lists of pirated channels that can be used without any problem on a PC, a smartphone or on the TV using the appropriate software. These lists are updated continuously to avoid blockages and restrictions of operators, who logically have everything possible to prevent them from pirating their signal. With this, little by little, the satellite signals are becoming obsolete, since they are the ones that pirate to offer these signals. No one is exposed to hack the original signal since it is easily detectable by the operator.

Some programs to watch IPTV

That said, how about a couple of software options available for playing IPTV content? All at your own risk, of course.
  • Kodi : the successor of XBMC is able to load M3U lists directly from its interface. If you consider the number of devices you can run on is the perfect option.
  • IPTV Extreme : one of the latest options available on Android. Of course it does not offer any type of list and does not have an integrated player, so you will have to look for chestnuts on the network and download a specific player. They themselves recommend VLC or MX Player.