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May 15, 2007

IPTV growth forecasts - foreshadowed

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by Brian Turner

The release of MRG’s report into IPTV services - which has Len Feldman, director of IPTV Analysis for MRG, declaring that IPTV subscribers could reach 66 million by 2011, and generating over $20 billion in revenues - certainly offers an optimistic outlook for IPTV services.

And let’s not forget, IPTV is seriously the media platform of the future. That’s not a moot point.

But as companies rush in to cash in on on service provision, let’s just hope we’re not going to see another fiasco develop, akin to the broadband markets in the UK which offer excellent accessibility on price, but dire support and even connectivity.

These are the sort of issues that could really floor IPTV - it’s not simply a technology, but a technology dependent upon a range of other technologies. That means there are plenty of areas where flaws can develop to undermine the service.

The two main ones are compatibility and connectivity.

Compatibility is pretty serious at the moment - while the studios clamp their content shut with DRM protections, it opens up problems for those trying to legitimately access that content.

The BBC has repeatedly highlighted that Windows Vista - the supposed media platform of the future, if you’re with Microsoft - has so far proven a real challenge when trying to integrate basic media services together, namely due to DRM limitations.

And the problem of connectivity? As too many people in the UK have found, the expansion of the broadband market has come at a cost. While hundreds of companies have rushed in to provide cheap broadband, the price is poor support and even connectivity, leaving many people frustrated with the level of service provided.

As VoIP itself is already finding out, having an ideal centered on media communications via the internet is all well and good when the internet is running - but dropped connections and variable line quality issues are seriously hindering that service at present.

So, yes, let’s cheer the projections, keep an eye on the digital home media revolution, and push on with IPTV delivery.

But let’s not forget the ability of the service to be overshadowed by a rush for profits instead of quality, which could seriously undermine the future of IPTV itself.

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