IPTV is much similar like browsing the internet than traditional channel surfing. It merely uses IP (Internet Protocol), a transport protocol which is a delivery mechanism to deliver the videos to the viewer. When the viewer clicks on any TV program or requests the video, video from different sources (servers) is divided into data packets and sent over the internet. Video servers transmit programs through fiber-optic cable to existing household via internet connection and requests are sent out and shows are sent back.
Let’s take a look at the IPTV architecture to better understand how IPTV works.
Depending on the network architecture of the service provider, there are two main types of IPTV architecture that can be considered for IPTV deployment: centralized and distributed.
The centralized architecture model is a relatively simple and easy to manage solution. Because all media content is stored on centralized servers, it does not require a comprehensive content distribution system. Centralized architecture is generally good for a network that provides relatively small VOD service deployment, has an adequate core and edge bandwidth and has an efficient content delivery network (CDN).
Distributed architecture is just as scalable as the centralized model, however, it has bandwidth usage advantages and inherent system management features that are essential for managing a larger server network. Operators who plan to deploy a relatively large system should, therefore, consider implementing a distributed architecture model right from the start. Distributed architecture requires intelligent and sophisticated content distribution technologies to augment effective delivery of multimedia contents over service provider’s network.
Architecture diagram of a typical IPTV network –
Broadcast content from Satellites and Local Antennas are received by the central unit. The central unit is where live TV channels and AV sources are encoded, encrypted and delivered in the form of IP multicast streams. The Central unit will also contain the Advertising Servers, Live TV Streaming Servers, Video on Demand (VOD) servers & platform and is where on-demand video assets are stored and served as IP unicast streams when a user makes a request. The VOD platform may sometimes be located with and considered part of, the IPTV’s central unit.
The requested videos and TV Channels are delivered to the viewer via the delivery network which consists of a robust internet uplink via Fiber Optics from the IPTV broadcasters end.
The viewer will receive this signal at their end via their local or preferred internet service provider which can vary from a range of options like broadband, fiber optics, DSL etc..
When the viewer subscribers to a particular IPTV service they are provided with the service’s specific Set Top Box (STB). A set top box is the piece of endpoint equipment that decodes and decrypts TV and VOD streams for display on the TV screen. This STB is connected to the viewers’ internet connection (router) and uses the internet to deliver the video and TV content to the viewer.
The viewer requests the videos or TV Channels via an interactive portal in the STB, that allows the viewer to navigate within the different IPTV services, such as the VOD catalogue.
While this is a typical example of an IPTV architecture model, due to a wide variety of service providers in the market today and the IT options available in the market, each service provider may decide to implement a slightly different architecture that suits their needs, geographic area, end point internet connectivity, local market conditions & requirements, and business model. However, at the core, the principles remain the same and may not be too different from what you see here.