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Global Standardization Activities

International Standardization of IPTV at ITU-T IPTV-GSI

Suguru Higashino, Hideo Imanaka, Akira Takahashi,
Yoshinori Goto, Shinji Ishii, and Masahito Kawamori


This article summarizes the current state of IPTV standardization activities at ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union, Telecommunication Standardization Sector) in various technical fields. We are actively participating in ITU-T’s efforts to develop international standards that take into consideration the specifications of Japan’s IPTV services. A set of Recommendations for IPTV basic service was completed in September 2009. This enabled us to ensure that the Hikari TV IPTV service launched by NTT Plala Inc. in March 2008 conforms to international standards.

NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories
Yokosuka-shi, 239-0847 Japan

1. Outline of IPTV-GSI activities

Standardization for IPTV is being conducted at ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union, Telecommunication Standardization Sector). ITU has Global Standards Initiatives (GSIs), which are groups intended to deliberate on discussions spanning multiple Study Groups (SGs). IPTV-GSI [1], which covers six SGs (9, 11, 12, 13, 16, and 17), was established in January 2008 to take over the work already done by FG IPTV (Focus Group on IPTV) [2]. By October 2009, it had held eight meetings. On each occasion, 30–80 contributions were submitted and actively discussed among 60–70 participants. IPTV-GSI has completed 19 Recommendations (including Supplements) and discussed approximately 70 draft Recommendations. The completed Recommendations are shown in Table 1. The ones based on deliverables produced by FG IPTV were close to completion as of December 2009.

Table 1. Standardized recommendations.

2. Overall architecture

2.1 Supported IPTV services and service requirements

ITU-T defines IPTV services [3] as “multimedia services such as television/video/audio/text/graphics/data delivered over IP-based networks managed to provide the required level of QoS/QoE, security, interactivity and reliability” (QoS: quality of service, QoE: quality of experience). On the basis of this definition, the IPTV services to be studied by ITU-T were established in Supplement Y.Sup5, and the service requirements were established in Recommendation Y.1901. The definition of IPTV services encompasses not only simple TV services but also services that involve a combination of communication and video delivery, such as interactive advertising, video telephony, and email services. Among the wide variety of IPTV services, studies are currently being targeted at the provision of IPTV basic services in the form of linear TV (ordinary broadcast-type services) and video on demand (VoD). A set of Recommendations for the provision of IPTV basic services over the NGN (Next Generation Network) has been established as Recommendation Y.2007 (NGN Capability Set 2).

2.2 IPTV functional architecture and NGN architecture

The functional architecture of IPTV is being studied by SG13. Although SG13 is the group responsible for studying the NGN, it is also studying methods for deploying IPTV functions to networks other than the NGN such as cable television (CATV) networks, as set forth in Recommendation Y.1910. These function groups include Japanese domestic IPTV service specifications. The functional architecture for the case where IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) is used on the NGN is shown in Fig. 1. Since IPTV is one of the principal services on the NGN, an important area of investigation is that of IP multicast functions for efficient provision of linear TV services. Other issues being studied include detailed specifications of content delivery functions, services for roaming to other networks, and cooperation with home networks.

Fig. 1. IPTV functional architecture.

3. Quality

SG12 inherited two QoE-related documents from FG-IPTV:

(1) Quality of experience requirements for IPTV

(2) Performance monitoring for IPTV

The first deals with the QoE requirements of IPTV services and was published as Recommendation G.1080. This Recommendation extends Recommendation G.1010 (end-user multimedia QoS categories), where the QoE classes of communication services are defined in general terms, and specifies guidelines and provisional targets for issues such as the quality of video/audio/text/graphical media and the quality of control functions (including channel zapping time).

The second document deals with (a) monitoring points for in-service quality monitoring, (b) parameters to be monitored at these monitoring points, and (c) quality assessment methods for QoE estimation. Of these, (a) was studied first and the results were set forth in Recommendation G.1081. Items (b) and (c) are still being investigated. In addition, Recommendation G.1082 describes the framework to be used for improving quality by using monitoring results. Areas currently being studied include methods for reporting monitored information to the quality management server (statistical aggregation methods, report frequency, etc.).

4. Content protection

The requirements and general functions for service and content protection (SCP) functions were set forth in Recommendation X.1191. As shown in Fig. 1, SCP is established from the SCP functions that form part of the application functions and from the SCP client functions that form part of the functions of IPTV terminals (which are usually receivers), and it operates through a process of cooperation between the transmitting and receiving sides. The main functions are encryption and playback/usage restriction functions for content protection and licensing functions for implementing pay-TV services. In Japan’s IPTV services, the content protection system used by providers such as NTT Plala Inc. based on Japan’s law concerning broadcast on telecommunications services [4], [5] conforms to this Recommendation.

Subjects that are currently being studied on the basis of Recommendation X.1191 include a method for transforming content received by a receiver for use with the SCP of a different portable terminal, a method for upgrading a terminal’s own SCP to keep up with the addition of new services and expansion of existing services, and a method for swapping between SCP functions to facilitate subscription to other IPTV services.

5. End system

An IPTV end system is not just a terminal but a series of systems that also includes the middleware and home network.

An IPTV terminal is the hardware that the user comes into direct contact with. It accepts operations from the user to indicate content and services. Recommendations H.720 and H.721 give general requirements for IPTV terminals and a basic model of terminals compatible with IPTV basic services such as linear TV and VoD, respectively. Recommendation H.721 is particularly significant in that it was based on Japanese IPTV service specifications as used by Hikari TV and is thus an international standard developed from Japanese specifications.

With regard to IPTV middleware, an investigation is under way into the application programming interface (API). The software configuration including the API is shown in Fig. 2. In addition to the overview of the API in Recommendation H.760, there are descriptions of the Ginga-NCL script language (NCL: nested context language) and LIME (lightweight interactive multimedia framework) in Recommendations H.761 and H.762, respectively. H.762 is based on broadcast markup language, which is used for digital broadcasts in Japan. Novel services can be created by exploiting the interactivity of IPTV and a variety of event information generated by users’ IPTV terminals. The processing of this sort of event information is described in Recommendation H.740. Furthermore, Recommendation H.770 covers service discovery and selection. Subjects for future study include metadata related to these services.

Fig. 2. Software configuration.

An IPTV home network is a residential network that allows an IPTV terminal to cooperate with other home electrical appliances. Home networks have been studied as an application of general importance beyond IPTV, and the basic functions of home networks are set forth in Recommendation H.622.1. Studies are currently under way into the QoS and remote management of home networks.

6. Other standardization trends

In 2005, a North American organization called the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) set up an IPTV Interoperability Forum (ATIS-IIF) [6] to look into the standardization of IPTV from many aspects including IPTV architecture, service discovery, metadata, and content protection requirements. ATIS-IIF and ITU-T are working together by exchanging liaison letters and cooperating on issues such as requirements and functional overviews. Meanwhile in Europe, a standardization project of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) called TISPAN (Telecoms & Internet converged Services & Protocols for Advanced Networks) [7] is working on NGN architecture standardization and the like in order to implement IPTV services.

On the other hand, in an effort to standardize broadcasting systems, the DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) project [8]—which is already well known in the field of digital broadcasting standards—is also working on IPTV standardization. ITU-T is also cooperating with DVB by exchanging liaison letters. Recently, a group called the Open IPTV Forum [9] was set up. It consists mainly of European telecommunications hardware manufacturers together with telecommunications carriers and consumer electronics manufacturers, and it is working on its own independent IPTV specifications. Services such as Widget TV that provide Internet data content by transmitting it alongside regular broadcast television content are also expanding. Efforts to standardize those services have been initiated by the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) forum [10]. Although that is a different approach to the IPTV approach, it is another method that combines broadcast content with Internet content.

7. Future direction of ITU-T IPTV-GSI

ITU-T has finished defining IPTV services and summarizing their requirements, architectures, and so on and has completed the Recommendations necessary for implementing IPTV basic services such as linear TV and VoD. Future study topics are likely to include standardization of detailed functions and interoperability, extensions of the basic services to accommodate the delivery of three-dimensional video for example, and standardization aimed at application services such as cooperation with communications. In this process, it will probably be necessary to take into account the relationship between ITU-T and other standards organizations.

NTT Laboratories will continue creating convenient and appealing IPTV services for its customers and will develop technologies for implementing those services while continuing its international standardization activities.


[2] S. Ishii, D. Mikami, M. Kawamori, K. Kawazoe, H. Imanaka, I. Nakajima, and Y. Goto, “Report on ITU-T FG IPTV International Standardization Activities,” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 6, No. 8, 2008.
[3] IPTV Forum Japan.
[4] Japanese Law Concerning Broadcast on Telecommunications Services.
[5] Japanese Law Concerning Broadcast on Telecommunications Services. (in Japanese).
[8] DVB.
[9] Open IPTV Forum.
[10] HbbTV.
Suguru Higashino
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, Human Interaction Project, NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories.
He received the B.S. degree in applied physics from Tokyo University of Science and the M.E. degree in information processing from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1986 and 1988, respectively. After joining NTT Human Interface Laboratories in 1988, he was mainly engaged in R&D of image coding and human interfaces. From 2005 to 2008, he worked in the R&D Strategy Department. Since 2008, he has been engaged in the development of IPTV services and digital signage services. He is a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers (IEICE) of Japan, the Japanese Society for Information and Media Studies, and the Institute of Image Electronics Engineers of Japan.
Hideo Imanaka
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, NGN System Architecture Project, NTT Service Integration Laboratories.
He received the B.E., M.E., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Mie University in 1985, 1987, and 2001, respectively. After joining NTT Telecommunication Network Laboratories in 1987, he was engaged in research on a fiber optic access network architecture and network operations process reengineering methods. From 1996 to 2003, he was engaged in enterprise resource planning systems integration as a consultant in the Solutions Division of NTT Communications. Since 2004, he has been engaged in NGN standardization work in ITU-T. He is the Rapporteur of Question 1 of Study Group 13. He also plays an active role in IPTV standardization work in ITU-T. He received the ITU-AJ Award from the ITU Association of Japan in 2009. He is a member of IEICE and the Society of Instrument and Control Engineers.
Akira Takahashi
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, Service Assessment Group, NTT Service Integration Laboratories.
He received the B.S. degree in mathematics from Hokkaido University, the M.S. degree in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology, USA, and the Ph.D. degree in engineering from the University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, in 1988, 1993, and 2007, respectively. He joined NTT Laboratories in 1988 and has been engaged in the quality assessment of audio and visual communications. He has been contributing to ITU-T Study Group 12 (SG12) on QoS, QoE, and performance since 1994. He is a Vice-Chairman of ITU-T SG12, Vice-Chairman of Working Party 3 in SG12, and Co-Rapporteur of Question 13/12 for the 2009–2012 Study Period. He received the Telecommunication Technology Committee Award in 2004, the ITU-AJ Award in 2005, the Best Tutorial Paper Award from IEICE in 2006, and Telecommunications Advancement Foundation Awards in 2007 and 2008.
Yoshinori Goto
Senior Research Engineer, NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories.
He received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in applied physics from Tohoku University in 1992 and 1994, respectively. In 1994, he joined NTT Basic Research Laboratories, where he studied x-ray optics and spectroscopy. Since 1998, he has been working on the development of broadband IP applications including VoIP and set-top boxes in NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories. In the last decade, his activities have shifted to standardization. In FG-IPTV (July 2006 to December 2007), he served as a co-leader of WG5 and led the end system discussion covering terminal devices and home networks. He is now working on various standardization topics such as IPTV, Home Networks, the NGN, and network identities and serving as Vice-Chairman of WP2/16, Rapporteur for Q11/9 and Q21/16, and Associate Rapporteur for Q5/13.
Shinji Ishii
Senior Research Engineer, NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories.
He joined NTT in 1989 and engaged in developmental research on security systems for multimedia communications. Recently, he has been engaged in the development of copy protection systems and conditional access systems for broadband communications and digital broadcasting.
Masahito Kawamori
Senior Research Engineer, NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories.
He joined NTT Laboratories in 1989. He has worked in research areas such as artificial intelligence, language processing, and interactive agents using speech recognition. His current research area is metadata and rights language, media delivery for broadcasting and broadband communications with special emphasis on IPTV, and the convergence of fixed and mobile communications services. Since 2000, he has been the leader of the Metadata Task Group of the Association of Radio Industries and Businesses (ARIB) Working Group for Broadcasting Systems based on a Home Server. He is involved in IPTV standardization work in ITU-T and is the Rapporteur of Q13/16 and the IPTV-GSI TSR Coordinator.