Past and Future of Television: from Mechanical to IPTV

Published: 9 June 2015 y., Tuesday

Television was invented back in 1884, when German Paul Gottlieb Nipkow came up with the idea to scan images using a rotating metal disc with a spiral pattern of holes in it. When the disc was spinning, each hole would scan one brightly lit line of the image. The light coming through the holes was registered using a photodetector and the resulting electrical signals were transferred by wires or radio waves and retrieved at the other end of the line. In 1929, John Baird convinced BBC to start broadcasting pilot TV shows on a short-wave band.

This mechanical television had a short life. Russian American Vladimir Kozma Zvorykin was the first one to realize electronic television, which used vacuum electron tubes to transmit and retrieve the image. He invented iconoscope, a device that transforms images into electrical signals, and kinescope, a device that retrieves such images. True, these devices were first patented by American Philo Farnsworth. On July 2nd, 1928, the US company RCA launched the first regular broadcast of a TV show.

The Second World War suspended the development of television, but this invention rapidly became popular immediately after the end of the war. In 1950, there were over 12 million TV sets in the world. In that same year, colored TV broadcasts were launched in the USA.

The first TV broadcast in Lithuania was launched on April 30th, 1957, at 7:45 PM. Colored broadcasts were launched in 1975. TV shows could originally be viewed within a radius of 100 km from Vilnius. After several years, TV became available in Kaunas amd Klaipėda districts. In 1981, after the construction of Vilnius TV Tower, the accessibility of television expanded.

Cable, Satellite or IPTV?

The first cable television network was installed in the USA back in 1948. The reason behind this was the need to give access to television to people living in locations, where the terrestrial television signal was too weak due to various obstacles (for example, mountains).

Cable television was rather expensive: it required laying several tens or hundreds of kilometers of cables, installing the main station picking up, processing and transmitting TV signals to TV sets of subscribers. Therefore, this type of television became paid service. In Lithuania, cable television was introduced only in 1989.

As the first artificial satellites were launched to the outer space, it was planned to use them for TV broadcasts. Russia was the first country to achieve this goal. In 1976, satellite TV enabled broadcasts of numerous TV channels, but it was very expensive. It required satellites picking up signals from numerous TV stations, processing and transmitting them back to Earth. For the signals to reach TV sets, it was also necessary to install a satellite dish, converter and receiver in the home of the TV subscriber. 2004 is considered to be the year, when satellite television was introduced in Lithuania.

The Internet officially invented in 1983 in the USA opened yet another door for video broadcasts: it allowed people to share videos online and view them on their computer screens. Some got concerned that television will disappear altogether, but it merely changed its course. The first Internet protocol-based television (IPTV) was launched in 1995.

In Lithuania, IPTV technology was first used by UAB Penki Kontinentai, when it launched Skynet fiber-optic Internet services in 1998. On February 14th, 2001, IPTV technology was used for the first live Internet broadcast in Lithuania; the broadcasted event was Techno Valentino party that took place in Vilnius Trade Unions' Palace of Culture. In 2006, the company received a permit to broadcast TV over broadband communication networks. Even since then, it has been successfully providing IPTV services to Skynet subscribers. IPTV.iQ software developed by specialists of the company and allowing turning the regular TV into smart one received a gold medal at the Lithuanian Product of the Year 2012, a national competition organized by the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists.

Compared to other types of television, the primary benefit of IPTV is that it offers numerous TV channels and the opportunity to independently control video material. Video on demand functionality allows rewinding videos. No big deal if you turned your TV on too late and the movie has already started, you can rewind and watch it from the beginning. Are you planning to leave and will not be able to watch your favorite show? No need to worry, you will find it recorded when you come back, so you will be able to watch it at any time.

IPTV viewers become directors of television. They can also watch TV not only on their TV sets, but on their computers as well. And vice versa, when watching TV, you can choose to browse the Internet: check your e-mail, share your thoughts about recently watched movie with the friends on Facebook or look up an interview with the actors on YouTube.

The Future of IP Television

Results of the latest Digital TV Research revealed that by 2020, the number of IPTV subscribers will grow by 37 percent, and that of satellite TV by only 5 percent. It is predicted that there will be no viewers of cable TV by 2020.

According to a report of Point Topic, there were 117.39 million IPTV users in the world at the end of 2014. Most of them were in China (33.6 million), France (15.5 million) and the USA (13.3 million). Data of the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania shows that at the end of 2014, over 20 percent of all households in Lithuania used smart TV.

"Recently, the number of IPTV users has been quickly growing. In 2010, there were over one thousand households using Skynet and IPTV services; in 2012, nearly two thousand, and this April, the number exceeded 11 thousand", said Robertas Ragauskas, Head of Commercial Department of the first supplier of IPTV in Lithuania UAB Penkių Kontinentų Komunikacijų Centras. "I have no doubts that IPTV is the television of the future. It gives immense freedom of choice: people can choose from nearly 100 TV channels and decide on the most convenient timing for them. This type of TV helps to save time and watch only what matters most to you. While watching a movie, for example, you can check weather forecast, exchange rates, horoscopes or e-mails in the second window".

The main advantage of IPTV mentioned by most experts is the opportunity to offer numerous interactive functionalities and to constantly expand their list. IPTV is a flexible platform that enables realization of various services: from entertainment to e-business. Another equally important advantage is the possibility to personalize and control services. For example, the possibility to enable subscribers to order the desired channels depending on their interests, record their favorite TV shows and watch them at any time, rewind broadcasted shows, etc.

When talking about future trends, specialists emphasize the development of VOD services and Multiscreen technology that allows watching TV on different devices. Virtual IPTV services, for example, TV Anywhere, are also among future trends. This service allows watching TV on any device that has Internet connection. The viewer has to enter the password granting access to video material. Similar services are already offered by HBO Go, Xfinity, Hulu and Amazon.

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