Why is IMS getting lumped into IPTV?

Telco IPTV market status / performance varies greatly by country, because of differences in broadband / PayTV penetration and the telco’s access to competitive national content.  Generalizations are difficult to draw.  Some countries have had rocky starts while others have been relatively trouble free.  Free and France Telecom are both now over 1.5 million IPTV customers, China Telecom and Verizon (its technically digital cable) are now over 2M customers, and even poor old BT and Deutsche Telekom are finally around the 500k customer mark. In mature markets with high broadband and PayTV penetration the key has been matching the existing packages of the satellite and cable providers, making it easy for customers to compare products: content packaging and price are key.  This has been the key lesson for many telco IPTV service launches; content is king (witness the battles for sports events) and price is how customers decide.

In China where PayTV is dominated by analog cable China Telecom and Netcom simply offer more channels (70 compared to 50) and VoD content.  In France where IPTV has been available since 2004 there is fierce competition with the Satellite providers over content.  And increasingly VOD (Video On Demand), remote DVR (Digital Video Recorder), stop and play on live events, managing voicemail from the TV, etc. are used by the IPTV providers to differentiate – yet Satellite dominates with over 50% of the PayTV market, simply because the bulk of the market does not yet use interactive services. In the US the deciding factor is the number of HD channels and sports content.

In many high penetration broadband / PayTV markets the first phase of ‘content packaging and pricing’ has run its course, the market is educated on IPTV.  Now we are entering the second phase where accessing content on your own terms is coming into play, e.g. VoD, DVR and catchupTV.  And we’re even seeing deals being cut where web based content is made available over IPTV.  But all this is easily managed by the existing middleware and VoD systems.  So why all the focus on IMS?

Scenarios quoted cover: CallerID TV pop-ups (BSkyB did that over a decade ago to mute customer interest, and most phones have CallerID built in); VoIP (BT’s selection of a softswitch architecture rather than IMS for its 21CN last year was a significant nail in that coffin); and FMC (Fixed mobile Convergence) video.  I understand the benefit of FMC data (getting it off the mobile network and onto the fixed when I’m at home or in the office as its much faster and cheaper), I’m still dubious on FMC voice if its a charged for service (as is the market).  When scenarios such as watching a movie on TV then switching over to watching on a mobile as you leave the house are very niche (only a geek could create such a use case), and again can be managed through existing platforms and static QoS (Quality of Service) without the need for IP session control with standardized dynamic QoS (IMS).  Given mobile operators have shown indifference to IMS, is it simple another case of technology-led sales rather than customer-led sales?

Bottom-line: IPTV doesn’t need IMS at the moment because it doesn’t matter to customers, rather the video related services of VoD, DVR, catchupTV, and related service innovation matters, e.g. adding web based content (search becomes even more important), stop and play on live events, local content, service management from the TV, bundling of on-demand content as customers’ viewing habits change, user generated TV (e.g. local schools’ channels), STB games (using the STB as a app platform), and the list goes on.