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  Masahito Kawamori (NTT)
  Masahito Kawamori (NTT)

Masahito Kawamori is a senior research engineer of NTT. His major interests are in telecommunication / broadcasting convergence and broadband/mobile convergence.
He has been involved in the development of a PVR-based broadcasting system, multimedia systems for mobile phones, and an IPTV system for NGN, which has been in service for two years in Japan. Masahito Kawamori has been involved with ITU standardization with various capacities. He is currently the coordinator of IPTV Global Standardization Initiative
of ITU.
  Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, (ITU/TSB)
  Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, (ITU/TSB)

Reinhard Scholl is Deputy to the Director of the ITU-T Secretariat (TSB) since September 2002. Previously he has been with Siemens in Munich, Germany and with ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute). He received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois, USA.

IPTV Eventing

InterComms talks to Anagran’s Dr Larry Roberts

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Engineers Gathered in Geneva in July for the first of a new series of IPTV ITU ‘Interop’ events, to demonstrate seamless global interoperability between their various IPTV devices. Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, and Masahito Kawamori, ITU-T IPTV Global Standardization Initiative Coordinator, discuss progress so far.

Q: What was achieved at the event?
R.S. A: Testing of the ITU’s suite of standards for IPTV took place at this first event and more events are in the pipeline. The event comprised two parts, one was a testing event open only to the engineers for applications to be tested, the second was what we call the showcasing event. This was for the public and interested parties to take a look at what was on the applications that were tested and we had about eight companies participating.
The ITU’s suite of IPTV standards is part of what we call the ITU’s H-series and comprise various standards. One standard deals with service discovery, another relates to IPTV terminals while another deals with meta data and a further one addresses interactive multi-media. Those specifications were tested at the event and there are other standards which we want to test at the next events coming up in September in Singapore and the third event in mid December in India.

Q: How will those events differ from Geneva?
R.S. A: Three features will be added at the Singapore event; there will be more test cases used to conduct testing and we will likely have companies who will participate in the end. We will also have a live connection from Singapore to Japan where content will be downloaded in real time from Japan and shown at the event in Singapore.

Q: Can you outline the standards tested in Geneva?
M.K. A: H. 721 is the terminal device standard for IPTV, providing basic services like channel services, on-demand services and interactivity which is more like web services. It is a standard that will be applicable to many devices and many types of devices, especially resource limited devices such as TV sets. We are promoting this recommendation to be implemented on TV sets, not only set top boxes and various server services in Japan are also targeted at H.721. There are terminals made according to the specification to allow implementation on set top boxes, DVR and digital TV sets in the retail market as well as downloadable at the PC level. You can download a certain module through an IPTV service which you can enable when you subscribe to a service provider. This is a very practical solution that can fit into many different types of terminal devices and which provides the basic IPTV services.

Unlike many of the proprietary solutions, where vendors try to lock in both service providers and consumers into types of devices, H.721 provides the open platform. Many service providers can participate and not only that, many vendors, including consumer electronics manufacturers, can join onto this platform enabling competition to improve the quality of services and user experience. Ultimately the consumer will be the one who will benefit most from this recommendation.

The point I want to make is that this is not only for set top boxes, it is also for TV sets, so you can buy the TV set off the market, take it to your home, connect it to the ether cable and you have an IPTV service. The difference between most of the connected TV sets on the market now is that it provides a managed service, meaning it provides standardised ways to find a service provider. Many of the connected TV sets actually now have one specified portal so that whenever you want to go to the Internet or any service you have to go to the portal. However, H.721 has mechanisms called service provider discovery which provides the opportunity to advertise their services on those standardised terminals. As a result, the consumer doesn’t have to be locked into certain types of services, so he doesn’t have to buy a different terminal each time he wants to change service providers.

Another standard we tested is H.762 “Lightweight Interactive Multi-media Environment” (LIME), an HTML based interactive application framework. It is much like HTML, the difference being that it is more like web pages with the practical integration of web services and broadcasting technology. It has a very good integration of video and text and other graphics and you can use web content even though you don’t have to use solutions like Flash, you have a capability much like Flash. The technology is based on web practices such as JavaScript and HTML, so it is rather easy for everybody to learn. Another interesting thing is that functionality wise, it has direct translation between MHEG-5 application to LIME content.

Another important recommendation is H.770 enabling service provision and service discovery for IPTV services. H.721 already has this mechanism built into it. This is the mechanism that allows users to find service providers as well as services. An example would be if the network provider provides the Service Provider Discovery Server, the terminal device that implements this recommendation and find service providers that are operating on this particular network, and after finding the particular service provider that the consumer is subscribed to, he can then choose various services - for example video on demand or gaming.

Using H.770, we can have a single IPTV terminal and still enjoy various different service providers so for example Service Provider A provides FLICKR and Twitter and YouTube but not high quality IPTV services, then Service Provider B provides high quality services but not access to the Internet then you can find and subscribe to both service providers using just one terminal based on this service discovery mechanism.

This recommendation is harmonised with other standards, specifically DVB service discovery and navigation and also ATIS-IIF (US-based Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions-IPTV Interoperability Forum)* specification for service discovery so the H.770 recommendation can be used not only in Europe or Asia but also in North America and South American countries as well. It is a global standard sanctioned by many different standardisation organisations.

Q: Can you tell me more about adoption of the standards outside the Interop event?
M.K. A: In the case of Japan, H.721, H.762, H.770 and H.750 all have been implemented and deployed over one million terminals. China Telecom is the only official IP Service Provider in China providing services in Shanghai, Beijing and Shengshen, etc. Their services are based on H.721 compliant terminals and one of the recommendations that we are working on which is ECMAScript, which includes H.762 (LIME) so China Telecom is trying to be compliant with our Interop event. In Singapore, the Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR), the national research centre, is conducting a series of experiments and tests that are using ITU-T’s recommendations including H.770, H.721 and H.762 (LIME). They are looking at ITU-T and other standardisation organisations to set up their own national standard for IPTV to be deployed on their Next Generation National Broadband Network. A*STAR is using ITU-T because it is currently the most mature for the testbed.

There are companies in Brazil, Canada and India who are interested in providing Interop event testing sites. Brazil has adopted the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB) as a digital standard and they are promoting their digital broadcasting standard as well as IPTV standards in parallel.

Q: How well are the standards doing competing against proprietary standards?
M.K. A: I think IPTV has gone through several phases. One phase is the proprietary solution phase. Very many IPTV providers wanted to enter into the market and they jumped to a proprietary solution and after that they learned the hard way that their proprietary solutions are very costly and it doesn’t make much sense economically. IPTV is not cable TV. IPTV can be very cost effective, but if you do it the wrong way, the cost can be very big, so proprietary solutions tend to become very burdensome to many IPTV service providers in the early stages. Now they are looking at how to move away from vendors locking them into proprietary solutions and they are looking at standards and the standards have to be efficient, practical and at the same time very fast and robust based on mature technologies with a sound background because IPTV will operate more than twenty or fifty years from now. Consequently the standardisation bodies should be very well established, have very good standards maintenance structure. ITU-T is the best place to look for standards for IPTV because IPTV is not just a streaming service over the internet, it is another mode of telecommunication and broadcasting. It is an entirely new mode of communication and for entertainment.

R.S. A: With a few million terminals out there, it is the perfect time to do these Interop testing events because it is at the very beginning of market uptake. Companies are eager to conform to the standards and that their equipment interoperates with the solutions that are being provided. At the beginning we expect uptake and we expect more companies to come to the Singapore event and for the India event.

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