Just as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) changed the telecom industry by breaking through to give the people cheap/free telephone calls over the internet, a shiny new technology is going to shake up the television industry round the world. They call it IPTV or Internet Protocol Television.


It is the delivery of Television over the Internet or more precisely Broadband Internet. As Broadband markets around the world grow, television over the Internet is no longer a distant dream but a resounding reality. In India Reliance Communication IPTV Restream Ventures is looking to start IPTV services by the end of 2006. Software giant Microsoft and communications major Cisco Systems Inc. have also spoken recently in support of the Reliance venture in India.


We also hear that the STAR Group is working together with Hong Kong based Pacific Century Cyber Works (PCCW) on IPTV. It all seems to fit, in keeping with the long-term strategies of these media companies. Of course for the Indian market which is just about ready to jump on to its latest avatar in Direct To Home (DTH) Television, talking about the next big thing might seem a bit cheeky. But time and technology waits for no one. The Indian Television market is big and vibrant enough to host a variety of simultaneous delivery systems.


The one big obvious benefit of IPTV is that because by nature it's runs over the active medium of the Internet it makes television truly interactive and two ways. The viewers can now watch what show they want when and so on. Bringing the two mediums together this new technology promises to unlock the true potential of both the Internet and TV.


IPTV can be received on a computer or by using a set-top box connected to a broadband Internet connection. Believe it or not there are about 1200 IPTV channels already operating around the world today. MPEG-4 (H.264) is going to be the most preferred choice of video compression used for broadcasting over the Internet, as against the earlier used MPEG-2 format. You however would at least need a 700kbps connection to get decent quality video even when using the MPEG-4 codec. At the moment not many households in India have that kind of Internet access even in the Metros. Having said that with Broadband prices being slashed every month and speeds being bumped up by ISP's this bandwidth issue can easily be resolved.


So if you are one of the lucky few that does get to connect to an IPTV service in India - Enjoy! For the rest of us, we will have to make do with a little Dish on the roof.