Fetch TV and the custom installer
The growing popularity of IPTV in the home has paved the way for Australian ISP’s to start delivering digital television over a broadband connection.
It is estimated that 400 million households around the world have access to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). This medium is changing the face of TV, providing an array of paradigms to broadcasters, content providers and installers.
IPTV works by encoding MPEG-based digital video signals in a series of Internet protocol packets that are delivered over a packet-based network such as Ethernet. This two-way protocol gives a user greater interactivity and access to extra content on-demand, rather than at times dictated by networks.
The new trend of digital TV over broadband has presented Australia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with an opportunity to offer this service and ultimately give installers the chance to add to their business.
This is the case for Perth-based iiNet – Australia’s third-largest ISP – which has recently partnered with FetchTV to be the first in Australia to deliver free and subscription digital television channels over a customer’s ADSL2+ broadband connection.
iiNet chief technology officer Greg Bader says this concept was inspired by the success of digital television over broadband in France, Spain, United Kingdom and Hong Kong.
“The challenge for us was to get the mixture of horsepower and price combination in the set-top box (STB) right. iiNet is more of an Internet company than a television company, so it was also important to build around interactivity.”
Greg says the service works on an “aggregated model”, where a third party (FetchTV) acts as a mediator to negotiate the purchase of different channels and then provides these services over the top of a customer’s Internet connection, with no relationship to the underlying ISP.
“This presents the challenge of how to connect the television to the broadband modem,” he says.
“One of the worst things that you can do to television is squeeze it over DSL, so in order to get quality service we match it with iiNet’s BoB modem. Once it is connected, it will auto-configure.
“The BoB modem is wireless, however to connect the STB a customer will need an Ethernet cable or a Power over Ethernet device. We don’t encourage customers to connect to the STB wirelessly.”
The FetchTV service will offer Video on Demand (VoD) content such as films and television shows, linear subscription channels, digital free-to-air tuners and pay-per-view new release movies. There will also be 3D capability, games and web access via the STB.
“This solution is complementary to free-to-air television as well as pay TV,” Greg says.
“The STB has a 750GB hard drive with built-in audio and video outputs as well as multiple digital tuners. Rather than sending digital free-to-air over the Internet connection we use the tuners in the house, so the box will require an antenna.
“We can tell what a customer’s connection is like and it will need to meet a certain speed. Those who have a very fast connection can receive HD television, while those with an average connection will receive SD television.”
While Greg admits that customers can self-install this service, there’s still a role for industry professionals.
“We are currently trialling a home installation service in Perth called the BoB Squad, to find out if the majority of our customers require a technical installation, or a customer-service installation,” he says.
“I think the idea of someone running a cable and leaving customers to do the rest doesn’t work, because they can benefit from installers showing them how to use the service to its full potential.
“Even if iiNet’s customers don’t use all of the features, we want to make sure they’re aware of them, especially if it’s something that can be integrated into a home theatre.”
According to Greg, the future holds a “world of content and service” where people will start to consume what was traditionally on a small screen PC on the big screen television.
“I think the industry is in a growth mode and it will continue developing. The guys that can support multiple services, and offer a level of customer service and experience, will be winners.”