ZTE´s IPTV System, a Basis of IPTV Services Operation

Ning Zhengzhi

ZTE´s IPTV system can greatly expand the range of the service operation of fixed network operators, besides offering colorful IPTV services to the users. The system not only meets pluralistic home entertainment demands of the users, but also provides fixed network operators with a platform for abundant broadband interactive value-added services.

    ZTE´s IPTV system is a mature advanced system with good integrity, operability, manageability and scalability.

 

    IPTV is a collection of new services that are based on IP transport technology. It uses TV as the media terminal, and mainly focus on interactive audio-video services.

    It has been a focus for fixed network operators to develop IPTV services, which help accelerate the broadband network development, improve Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) service subscription, increase ARPU values, and raise operation revenues.

    ZTE has released its IPTV system ZXITV to meet the demands of the market. It provides fixed network operators with a powerful technical support to the IPTV service operation.

1 ZXITV System Supports Diversified IPTV Services
The ZXITV system not only meets pluralistic home entertainment demands of the users, but also provides fixed network operators with a platform for abundant broadband interactive
value-added services.

    The abundant IPTV services mainly fall into broadcasting services, VoD or the variants of the two. Below are some common services.

(1) Broadcasting
    Broadcasting is a basic form of the IPTV services. To the viewers, broadcasting services are as same as the traditional TV, with channel switching and the channel selection done via on-screen menus. Broadcasting services are an effective way for operators to attract traditional TV viewers. Service revenues are from monthly subscription charge, advertisement income and other services. The feature channels play a key role in broadcasting service operation. Moreover, this kind of service usually uses IP multicast technologies to transmit TV programs through IP networks, hence the barrier network is required to support IP multicast and IP QoS.

(2) VoD
    VoD is another basic form of the IPTV services. Viewers select any programs they like via screen menus, and pay according to the contents they have chosen. VoD totally changes the traditional TV watching habit from a passive receiving mode to an active program selection mode. It has many variations.

(3) Private Video Recorder (PVR)
    PVR enables viewers to record a certain period of channel contents for later play. This service extricates viewers from the time rigidity of channel programs and satisfies the users´ demand for self-determined play time.

(4) Pay per View (PPV)
    PPV is a service form of VoD, i.e. to charge for each order. Hot new films usually adopt this form to operate. In addition, the PPV service must rely on the digital copyright technology.

(5) Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD)
    SVoD is also a service form of VoD. Viewers monthly order some special programs to gain their view privilege, which changes the channel view to view on demand. This is a perfect service form that combines broadcasting and
VoD services.

(6) Time-Shifted Television (TSTV)
    TSTV combines broadcasting and VoD. During the play of a TSTV program, viewers may pause the program at anytime and continue afterwards from where they have left off. From a technical view, the server records the program at the request of pause, and replay the recorded program later using a unicast mode. This service is especially useful for competition programs.

(7) Near Video on Demand (NVoD)
    An NVoD system supports multiple copies of a program to be broadcast at multiple channels at short time intervals (e.g. 10 minutes). Viewers can attain the same effect of forward and backward as VoD by switching channels. The NVoD service is also an improved form of traditional broadcasting services in order to effectively distribute service traffic and improve service capability within a short time, and is especially suitable for hot films and hot issue coverage.

(8) TV Shopping
    TV shopping is a new service that combines TV shopping guide and PC-based e-commerce. The TV presentation form is more vivid and closer to life, and can help promote the service at large scale.

(9) Interactive Games
    Interactive games are interconnecting electronic games that use TV as a media.

2 Strengths of ZTE´s ZXITV  System
As shown in figure 1, the ZXITV system is mainly composed of the video source system, video service network, service management system, Authentication, Authorization and Accounting (AAA) system, Electronic Program Guide (EPG) system, user terminals and broadband access network.


    The characteristics of ZXITV include:
(1) Integrity
    Integrity of its product line not only ensures the quality and interoperability of products, but simplifies system maintenance and system implementation. The solution systematically satisfies operators´ requirements of operation management, service control, service quality and maintenance of the IPTV services.

(2) Operability 
    The system provides abundant service types, flexible and diversified service policies, support for development of interactive users´ self-service functions and easy content processing and control.

(3) Manageability
    The system supports automated service flow management, visualized equipment management, remote equipment failure diagnosis and abundant service operation statistical reports and network operation reports.

(4) Scalability
    The solution relies on the existing broadband network platform to superimpose the IPTV service network, unnecessary to change the existing network topology. The video network and operation support platform could be flexibly deployed to fit the interim requirement of service development. At the very beginning stage, the video service network could be composed of a single centralized media server of small capacity. And then, with the development of the IPTV services, the server capacity could be expanded, or a video service network of multiple servers could be deployed, or the video network may be extended to the network edges. In the same way, the operation support platform could also expand from a single server to a layered network system.

(5) Online Software Update
    An online update server enables automatic software update of the set top box (STB) through communication between the server and the box. The update failure rollback mechanism ensures the proper operation of the STB.

(6) Flexible Networking
    Both the IPTV "video convergence" transmission solution and the IPTV "video delivery" transfer solution are provided to help the networks at different development stages to smoothly evolve into IPTV service networks, reasonably utilizing the current network resources and improving the performance-cost ratio of IPTV.

(7) Service Security
    Access authorization, service authorization, Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) multicast channel control and digital content copyright control mechanisms are put together to ensure security of the whole service process, while the system access limits management function guarantees the security of the background. These form a well-founded basis for service operation.

(8) Service Quality Assurance
    The quality of the end-to-end IPTV service is assured by the flow balance technology of the video distribution system, the stream service receiving control, the layered distribution architecture, the differentiated service models of the IP network, the user-and-service-based multi-level QoS processing of the access network (DSLAM) and multiple Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC) service barrier of the modem. Meanwhile, the multicast access limit control technology of DSLAM greatly shortens the time delay of channel switching, improving service quality. The service quality assurance technologies provide a basis for service operation of higher quality and better price.

3 Discussions on IPTV  Service Operation Modes

3.1 IPTV Industry Chain
On the industry chain of the IPTV services there are the equipment vendor, content provider, network service provider, service operator, end user and competitor. The major competitors of the IPTV service come from TV operators, which compete for users and content resources with IPTV operators.

    The structure of the IPTV industry chain is illustrated in Figure 2, where the direction of the arrow indicates the direction of the service chain. Equipment vendors provide network devices to network operators. The network operators then set up the network infrastructure and service networks and offer them to service operators for IPTV service operation. The service operators provide the IPTV services directly to the end users. In the mean time, service operators should also have service operation support system and service contents, which are provided by equipment (or system) providers and content providers respectively. If a network operator also provides the IPTV service itself, it could be called briefly the operator, who will interact with all the other parts. The inverse direction of the service chain is the direction of the capital chain.

3.2 Operation Modes of IPTV
Currently, major operation modes of the IPTV service include:

(1) Joint Operation 
    The network operator and content provider jointly provide IPTV services. Generally the network operator, acting as the service operator, is the principal party, and the content provider offers content and content integration. The operation income is shared according to a prearranged proportion.

(2) Self-Operation 
    In this mode, the network operator buys contents from the content provider and operates the IPTV services independently. The content provider produces contents, and the network operator sales them. All the operation income belongs to the operator.

(3) Lease
     The network operator leases the network operation platform to the IPTV service operators for a determined fee. All the service operation income belongs to the service operator.

    The joint operation mode could effectively circumvent the risk of policy, but benefit conflicts between the operator and content provider often happen. So tough legal restrictions are required. The self-operation mode is often found used in countries with less policy control and more powerful operators. Since the operator has a full control over content resources and network platform resources, the internal communication cost is relatively low, and this mode is the most favorable to the operator. The lease mode best fits the situation where the TV operator is mighty and hopes to offer the services of IPTV. Here TV operators develop their IPTV services through IP networks of telecom operators. Actually, the IPTV operators may flexibly adopt one of the modes or a combination of several modes according to specific contents and operation environment.

Manuscript received: 2005-03-26

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