Table 1: IPTV Set-Top Box Vendors
|Vendor||IPTV STB products include|
|Advanced Digital Broadcast||ADB-3800W, ADB-5810TWX|
|Amino Communications||AmiNET530 Series, Mood 400 Series|
|Cisco||IPN603MCG IPTV Series Multi-Stream DVR Gateway|
|Comtrend||CT-7005 HD IP Set Top Box, CT-7010 IPTV Set-top Box|
|Dream Digital Technology||IP Box|
|Entone Technologies||Amulet IP Receiver, Amulet and Hydra IP Video Gateways|
|Motorola||VIP 1216, VIP 1970|
|Ninelanes||NOVE HD Series|
|Oki Electric Industry||Next Generation Hybrid STB, High-End IP-STB|
|Pace Micro Technology||IP850|
|Pirelli Broadband Solutions||Hybrid IPTV/DTT Set-Top Box, Hybrid IPTV/DTT DVR Set-Top Box, DVR2xx-5N|
|Sagem T�l�communications||IAD5116, ITAD 83-160 HD|
|Samsung Electronics||SMT-6010E, SMT-H6100, SMT-7020S|
|Thomson||DBI 2210, DBI 8500|
|Tranzas||TRZ8300, TRZ8301H, TRX8205|
|Yuxing Software||PTV STB YX-6911B, Hybrid STB YX-5912U|
|ZTE||ZXBIV IPTV System|
|Source: Light Reading, 2009|
Although no single product necessarily encompasses all, key capabilities and features of many modern IPTV STBs include:
IPTV STBs continue to evolve, and three particular broad trends are influencing product technology and design:
- integration of usage monitoring
- integration of over-the-top (OTT) Web-TV capabilities
- integration into the home network and media system.
Web TV is essentially IPTV delivered directly over the public Internet (hence over-the-top, or OTT), as Hulu LLC does, rather than over a managed IP network connection, as is standard telco IPTV. This is a slightly sticky issue for IPTV STB vendors, because it is possible to present it as a direct threat to the standard telco IPTV model, as complementary to it, as a massive opportunity, or as total doom to the very idea of an STB – IPTV or otherwise.
Taking the last possibility first, Web HDTVs (HDTVs with integrated Web browsing) are already available – for example, Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)’s Viera Cast PZ850 – and a slew of leading names were promoting the approach at the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Assuming that issues of public-Internet QoS can be addressed satisfactorily by, say, fiber access, an advanced TV capable of accessing direct vast quantities of OTT streaming Web TV and video downloads (if legally available) could be attractive to some users by its very minimalism and similarity with the familiar business of watching video clips on a PC.
In this context it is worth pointing out that TV vendors are also looking at the possibilities of STB integration into the TV (which is itself becoming more of a multifunction media hub and display) as an obvious line of development as IPTV matures. An example is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), which is pursuing a Set Back Box concept (for example, with its high-end P63Fn 63” HD plasma display), using plug-in modules to extend the capabilities and inputs of the display.
And TVs might even go down the software route. Inuk Networks , for example, has developed a virtual IPTV STB called "igloo," designed to run on PCs and Macs and to provide features of a hardware STB. It offers this in conjunction with its Freewire TV service, and in September 2008 extended its middleware support to create a wholesale iTV product for other operators.
However, the lifecycles and other dynamics of the TV, STB, and telco product markets are different. In particular, TV display technology tends to change much more slowly than STB technology and telco product requirements, so keeping them separate seems inevitable, at least for now.
The consensus leans more to Web TV complementing standard telco IPTV and leading to a further opportunity by combining all the attractive features of the standard approach (controlled and guaranteed QoS and QoE, plus all the remote support and monitoring), coupled to all the interactive capabilities and huge content resources of the Web, and integrating everything onto a single home network and media system that would include all the home media, personal and public. This could ultimately lead to a single device that combines the roles of home gateway and network, STB, and media storage and processing.
Although there is no consensus yet on how far such integration would, or could, go, there is a clear recognition that the networked multi-TV home is a reality, and STB vendors are increasing the networking capabilities of their products to support media distribution around the home.
The following examples give a flavor of how the key capabilities and trends are affecting real products, all announced in 2008:
- IPN603MCG IPTV Series Multi-Stream DVR Gateway, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
Features include: support for three independent channel streams to multiple televisions throughout the home; integrated DVR to record multiple video streams simultaneously with 160GB of standard storage; IP compatibility using 100BaseT Ethernet and IP-over-coax using HPNA 3.0 interfaces for IP video and data content; video codecs for standard- and high-definition content (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Part 10/H.264, and VC-1); recording of HD broadcast programming to analog VCRs, with automatic standard-definition conversion for VHS tape format; and digital interfaces with applicable copy protection standards including High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) with High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP).
DVR2xx-5N High Definition IPTV Set-Top-Box, Pirelli Broadband Solutions
This integrates 5GHz MIMO 802.11n technology into the company’s PVR-enabled DVR2xx IPTV STBs to create an in-home wireless HD video distribution network to serve multiple TVs, thereby providing a “self-install, no-new-wires solution for IPTV deployment in the home,” as the company put it at the product’s launch.
DBI8500 Set-Top Box, Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453)
Described at launch by the vendor as “the most compact HD PVR on the market” (at 260x190x51mm), it offers MPEG-4 decoding and HD with an integrated hard disk recorder (fanfree for low-noise operation). There are options for a DVB-T tuner and decoder for both broadcast and IP reception.
- STB-1001 IPTV Set-Top Box, ZyXEL Communications Corp.
Features include: support for multiple video streams; compact design; digital rights management (DRM); MPEG-1/2/4 with H.264SD AV codec support; IGMP multicasting; SNMP; and TR-069.