MUMBAI: Last year, subscribers to IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) services worldwide numbered only about 13.5 million, but ABI Research forecasts their ranks to grow to more than 90 million by the end of 2013.
"The IPTV market as a whole is poised for strong growth," says senior analyst Cesar Bachelet, "but clearly it will be stronger in some areas than in others. ABI Research anticipates particularly substantial growth in North America and most emerging markets."
In North America, until recently only a few Canadian operators and smaller rural/regional operators in the US have offered IPTV services, although 2007 saw Verizon and AT&T begin to achieve some scale in their fiber deployments. IPTV growth in the US is closely linked to those large fiber rollouts.
Although IPTV got a head start in Asia when PCCW launched its successful IPTV service in Hong Kong, the region punches far below its weight where the number of IPTV subscribers is concerned, due to regulatory issues and/or low broadband penetration in key markets. However, ABI Research forecasts vigorous growth ahead as these issues are gradually being resolved.
IPTV has been available in Western Europe since 1999, so the market there is comparatively well-developed already, especially in countries such as France. There is scope for growth, however, as several large markets – such as Germany and the UK – still have relatively low penetration rates.
These growing IPTV markets open an opportunity for vendors of the needed infrastructure: video servers, middleware, set-top boxes and more. Another opportunity arises from the migration from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 encoding (allowing high-definition) and the addition of new functionality to services, which requires new equipment and middleware.
But that doesn’t translate to automatic success for vendors. "Operators are getting very picky when choosing their vendors," notes Bachelet. "They want one with a proven track record, a history of supporting large-scale deployments." And that cuts two ways: "For telcos, the road to IPTV could still be rocky, because for most, video is a brand new, very sophisticated business, and they are up against incumbent pay-TV operators who have established relationships and a great deal of experience."