Let's try to realize what is necessary for starting the IPTV project. The first required component is head-end, the hardware and software complex that receives, records, and stores the content, as well as manages services and subscribers. Set-top boxes for users' TVs are also needed. Set-top boxes are the clients of the head-end.
A head-end contains a number of components:
IP Gateway is the device that receives satellite, cable, or terrestrial TV signal and broadcasts it into an IP network in multicast mode.
Middleware is the central part of IPTV system as it ties subscribers' IP set-top boxes to the IPTV head-end and defines the user interface and the set of available services. In fact, Middleware coordinates pretty much everything in an IPTV system.
Billing systems accounts and tariffs all consumable services. It is sometimes called SMS (Subscriber Management System), since it allows to manage subscriber base, payment cards, administer tariff plans and financial statements.
This server unit is necessary for providing Video on Demand services. The device contains hardware storage with multimedia library. The content from the library is provided on subscriber's demand.
To provide services like TV on Demand and Time-Shifted TV, you also need a separate server unit that would record selected TV channels and broadcast them on subscriber's demand.
This is an optional component of IPTV system. It protects the content by requiring passkeys. The operator can manage the access for individual subscribers. The encrypted streams are transmitted over open channels.
The IP network with multicast support is required for IPTV system. Multicast is a mode of delivery directed simultaneously to a group of IP adresses. The IGMP querier and multicast IGMP switch are necessary.
There is a software that allows users to access the IPTV services by personal computer. Using the IPTV PC Client subscribers can watch TV-channels and access all additional IPTV services.
Set-top boxes (STB) are required to access the IPTV services on TV screen. They are the connecting link between Middleware, content sources and subscriber's TV. A set-top box receives the signal via an IP network and converts it into supported formats.
The IPTV content may be streamed or recorded, for example Video on Demand. The recorded content is stored on the VoD servers. There are two kinds of streamed content received from external satellite, cable or terrestrial source:
- FTA (free-to-air). The number of unencrypted channels received from one source depends on transponder's or multiplex's bandwidth.
- PayTV, i.e. encrypted channels. PayTV channels need decryption by a Conditional access module (CAM). For different encryption systems you need different CAMs. The number of channels broadcast from one source depends on CAM performance because each CAM can decrypt simultaneously only a limited number of channels.
We have considered all IPTV components in detail and made it clear that an IPTV system contains a lot of high-performance and complex devices:
- IP network with multicast support.
- DVB to IP Gateway for receiving external TV signals (a separate device).
- Middleware and billing system (a separate device).
- VoD / nVoD server (a separate device).
- TVoD / Time Shifted TV server (a separate device).
- Conditional Access System (a separate device).
- IP set-top boxes.
Generally, each IPTV component comes from its own manufacturer, so the components must be patched together, thus increasing the timing and complexity of project's deployment.
If you use the NetUP's IPTV system, all components are naturally compatible with each other, so you don't need to waste your time and money for the integration. Thanks to this, the cost of project's deployment decreases significantly. But for small IPTV projects, such as hotels, hospitals or yachts, a large-scale IPTV system may still be overly complex and not cost-effective.
NetUP has developed the IPTV Combine 8x especially for small projects with less than 500 subscribers. This server unit contains all necessary components in one piece: DVB to IP Gateway, Middleware, Billing system and VoD/nVoD server. NetUP IPTV Combine 8x is relatively easier to install, customize and supply, and greatly cheaper compared to a full-fledged IPTV system.
IPTV Combine 8x has built-in 1 TB HDD storage. The device's performance allows to broadcast more than 50 simultaneously VoD streams and to receive external TV signals from 8 different transponders or multiplexes. Optionally, an additional DVB to IP Gateway can be installed to increase the number of received channels. TVoD server and CAS can be also installed.
Components required for starting a small IPTV project: