MILAN – Copper wires, cables and fiber- optic lines bring speedy Internet access, cheap voice calls and television into homes. But transporting those services around the various rooms in a house until recently involved the costly and unsightly installation of yet more wires.
Several years ago, Wi-Fi made wireless Internet access in the home a reality, but sending high-quality video signals in the same way has been problematic. Video signals are heavier – they take more bandwidth – than simple Internet connections, and the link must be constant to avoid the occasional frozen image.
The arrival of IPTV, or Internet protocol television – the delivery of video to a television set using a broadband network – has started a push toward finding some kind of wireless solution for home television.
IPTV is still in its infancy and must compete with pay-TV services and free-to-air television. Yet the growth potential of IPTV has a myriad of companies, from telephone service providers to network equipment makers, jostling for a piece of the market.
At the end of last year, there were 4.5 million households with IPTV worldwide, mostly in Europe and Asia, according to S2 Data, an Arizona consulting firm. That number is forecast to grow to 8.3 million by the end of this year and to 62 million in 2010.
IPTV allows for interactivity and video-on-demand, and it can help service providers cut costs when bundled with voice and Internet, the so-called triple play. To watch IPTV, a user must have a computer or a set- top box connected to a television.
Many industry analysts and executives have said that IPTV would compete better against entrenched methods of delivering television if there were an easy way to deliver the programming wirelessly to various rooms in a house, not just to the one television where the broadband Internet cable comes out of the wall.
“Video content comes into the gateway and then can’t get around the home,” said Selina Lo, chief executive of Ruckus Wireless, a two-year-old network equipment maker in Silicon Valley, California. “Many service providers have tried Wi-Fi but have seen that it doesn’t work well, while others have installed cables, but that is costly, takes time and consumers don’t like cables all over their home.”
Though Wi-Fi technology is improving, most industry experts do not expect that it will ever guarantee uninterrupted delivery of television in its current form. So companies like Ruckus are working to strengthen Wi-Fi with antennas and software that enable it to beam video from room to room more consistently.
Ruckus has developed what it says is the first “smart Wi-Fi” system that can reliably deliver video, as well as data and voice, over Wi-Fi.
The Ruckus adapter, which contains antennas and software and is small enough to be held in one hand, plugs into a home’s broadband Internet port.
The system identifies and prioritizes the different types of traffic – voice, data, video – coming into the system and then finds the best Wi-Fi path for transmission.
“IPTV will allow the service providers to make a comeback from the drop in revenue per user they have seen on their fixed-line networks, and going wireless is fundamental for the success of IPTV,” said Antonello Madonna, chief executive of Telsey Telecommunications, an Italian network equipment maker that uses Ruckus’s technology in some of its products.
When not included as part of the product of a partner company, the Ruckus system is sold through service providers in Hong Kong, Ireland, Finland and Slovenia. In the coming months, other agreements will be announced in Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Estonia and Spain, said Lo, the Ruckus chief. Ruckus has signed on mostly relatively small service providers. But Lo said that the company had agreements with two large European service providers that did not want to be named yet.
PCCW, the telecommunications company based in Hong Kong, has been using Ruckus equipment since late last year to offer customers wireless television around the home.
Since PCCW has almost 600,000 IPTV customers, more than any other service provider worldwide, the company’s success with wireless IPTV could help convince the rest of the world that the technology has a future.
Fuente: International Herald Tribune, Eric Sylvers