The IPTV service is difficult to monitor due to the flexibility provided by the web, which is why it is required to maintain monitoring at different stages of the process to control the quality of the audio, sound and additional metadata that is transmitted.
By Ralph Bachofen*
The constant expansion of telecommunications infrastructure and broadband networks in urban areas and into rural communities has made IPTV (television over the Internet Protocol) a strong competitor in the media business, as well as in the provision of data and telephony services.
The provision of these three services, the so-called "triple play", through a single platform and a single provider, brings benefits, both to the provider and the subscriber.
Through a unique user interface, IPTV services can offer their subscribers not only Internet access and telephone service, but also hundreds of television channels, as well as on-demand content (VoD); allow the recording of programs; facilitate the transmission of content to the subscriber's mobile devices and supports a multitude of new interactive elements and integrated applications ranging from games and social networks to e-commerce and learning by virtual means.
The versatility of the IPTV platform is opening the door to new forms of content consumption. It can support and enable display options and more interactive features, such as real-time data from a given program, the ability to make purchases, as well as social media tools, games, and surveys.
The subscriber enjoys a more engaging experience, while the operator can make a profit from sales from much better targeted advertising. In addition, because IPTV facilitates two-way communication between the subscriber and the provider, the operator and/or advertiser can refine and target their ads, as well as interactive applications and features that enrich the content being viewed.
Stay competitive with quality control
Able to offer multimedia content with the same quality standards of cable and television services, and with enough flexibility to allow greater customization and interactivity, IPTV has become a competitor in the flexible htt broadcast market that make these types of services difficult to monitor.
While a major challenge, effective monitoring is critical to maintaining a competitive position in an increasingly tight market. In the Internet Protocol (IP)-based broadcasting model, video and audio are sent, along with other data, through the packet-switched network infrastructure and not through traditional radio frequency transmission, cable television system (CATV) or satellite signals.
Compressed within MPEG packets that in turn are sent within IP packets, the content and data are transmitted over the IP network to a set-top box (STB) or other receiving devices that the subscriber has at home. Given the complexity of this transport flow, it is necessary to carry out exhaustive monitoring at different levels.
Since it is critical that the IPTV provider can verify both the quality of the audio and video being transmitted, as well as the data that enables primary and complementary services, the implemented monitoring solution must be able to implement quality parameters for audio and video and the standards for metadata within MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 streams.
Consequently, quality parameters for voice and data remain relevant, but by no means constitute an exhaustive group of monitoring tools. Full monitoring and analysis of the MPEG transport stream is essential to maintain the quality of service and quality of experience.
IP flow analysis
Throughout the IPTV transmission chain chain, patented components and technology threaten to introduce errors that compromise the integrity of the MPEG transport stream at one or more levels. These threats can turn managing, monitoring, and troubleshooting—when they occur—into complicated tasks.
Stream metadata should conform to the appropriate transmission standard, as errors in this metadata may impede the receipt and display of content, as well as hinder the provision of the Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) information service and other services.
In other words, correct metadata is critical to service delivery, whether it includes basic scheduling options or interactive options services, real-time insertion of targeted advertising (and reliable ad reports for verification), or other novel revenue-generating services.
Observing MPEG transport flow on the IPTV platform—video, audio, and accompanying metadata—at multiple levels, performing flow monitoring, and using comprehensive analysis tools allows IPTV operators to monitor, alert, troubleshoot, record, and measure transport streams based on industry standards and business model or operator requirements.
An effective system will continuously evaluate the quality of the audio and video transport characteristics to ensure that the synchronization and buffer models are being met, that the transmission of signals and the link between the program elements is correct, and that the audio and video remain synchronized.
If such monitoring is carried out throughout the broadcast chain, the IPTV operator can rely on the quality and continuity of its services and, in turn, maintain customer satisfaction, a fundamental element to maintain its competitiveness.
Because technologies developed to monitor end-to-end terrestrial transmission and cable plants have been designed to implement MPEG transport streams, they can also be employed in IPTV monitoring.
Therefore, proven solutions, already available on the market, constitute for IPTV operators a proven, simple and cost-effective option that allows them to quickly identify and solve transport flow problems.
While smaller vendors could make use of monitoring at a limited number of critical points in their operations, larger IPTV operations can reap significant benefits by using advanced monitoring software built into their IP routing platform.
This solution combines comprehensive monitoring tools and features with the performance of a hardware platform. This model facilitates continuous monitoring of transport flows through base networks at the deep transport level and also simplifies global operations, allowing for closer integration of monitoring processes with the network management system as well as the supplier's operations support system.
Even more important, however, is how the monitoring built into the router allows you to automatically move from a primary transmission stream to a security stream in the event of a process failure. Through this method, IPTV operators can guarantee maximum uptime and the best possible experience to subscribers.
As the IPTV industry continues to evolve and operators expand the volume and variety of their service offerings, sophisticated and adaptable monitoring systems can provide the tools needed to measure those services based on new practices and standards.
*Vice President of Sales and Marketing Director of Triveni Digital.