What are the differences between IPTV and OTT?
To better understand this, it’s interesting to think about the striking similarities with the evolution of VoIP (Voice over IP). Primarily, VoIP, as pioneered by Skype, was purely on “over the top”. For example with none network awareness of the sort of content, which had cost and reach the advantages like free calls to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. But it resulted in lower quality of service and convenience at that time. From a business perspective, the Telcos saw it as an inferior product that couldn’t compete with their offerings and most consumers saw it as a complement to, instead of a replacement for, a telephone line.
Later, we saw the emergence of pure-play providers like Vonage that made it look more sort of traditional telephone service: you’ll use a standard device (a phone) and got tons of equivalent features but with some extra benefits (for example you’ll get an email transcript of your voicemail) and you purchased it as daily phone service. Telcos began to notice and a couple of offered an identical service coexisting with traditional telephony; mainstream consumers who were trying to find a mature solution that felt familiar began to switch.
Eventually, VoIP became subsumed into the network, with telcos adopting technologies, like SIP trunking, that use IP rather than PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Today, once you place a call, the likelihood is that a minimum of a part of the connection is going to be over a packet-switched network. On the cellular side, LTE enables all calls to require place over IP and a few cellular providers even allow you to seamlessly offload mid-call to WiFi/fixed Internet connections.
So what does this need to do with OTT?
In the Internet video space, we have seen an identical transition, from the first days when streaming meant inferiority and buffering on your computer to the present service that is actually superior to traditional TV transmission. With cable or satellite companies like Comcast and Dish acknowledging and embracing OTT and with pure-play providers like Netflix and Amazon appealing to a mass audience with the power to observe on TV sets (the traditional playback device) also as other devices but with some extra features like superior content discovery.
My expectation is that over the subsequent few years we’ll see a transition, where the technologies currently getting used for OTT are going to be integrated into the network. We’re already seeing some early indications on the basis of this. Like Netflix opens connect initiative and upstream video transmissions to the top end which is called distribution point happening over IP, to name some developments.
Many years ago we predicted this evolution in a white paper and coined the term TV over IP in shorts TVoIP as a slightly tongue-in-cheek that is an alternative to IPTV and also as a nod to VoIP.
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