The question that was often raised in this article was the feasibility for the National Broadband Network to be used as a conduit to providing a reliable high-quality TV viewing experience. This is more so in areas around Australia where TV reception quality is next to hopeless and is something regularly encountered in rural areas.
There are some IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) services in place through Australia but these are offered by some ISPs as a way of delivering multichannel pay-TV service to their customers. Similarly, the regular free-to-air TV stations run Internet-based TV services typically in the form of on-demand TV content. This is where one typically can catch up on past episodes of a TV show or see “12-inch” (extended-length) versions of particular content like TV interviews.
But the National Broadband Network could be used as a platform for delivering an IPTV service similar to what has happened in France with their “n-box” triple-play services, and also what happens in some other European countries. There, one could use the set-top box which is connected to the Internet to tune in to regular free-to-air TV broadcasts. There is even the ability to gain access to extended content offered by the broadcasters like “catch-up” TV from the comfort of your couch.
This is also augmented by the main TV manufacturers rolling out “main-lounge-area” TV sets and video peripherals that have an extended-TV platform and can connect to the Internet. These sets, commonly marketed as “smart TVs”, have been pitched with apps that have access to various functions like broadcaster
Freeview, who represent the free-to-air digital TV platform in Australia, could extend their remit for this service beyond the classic terrestrial-based technology. Here, they could set up a “Freeview IP” environment which uses IPTV and the National Broadband Network to distribute regular “scheduled-broadcast” TV content via this infrastructure. This could be extended to a “couch-based” user interface for extended on-demand content such as catch-up TV.
Questions that may be raised concerning this would include negotiation with sports leagues and cultural bodies concerning using Internet infrastructure to broadcast their content. This may be seen as treading on “online rights” contracts and may break sports-code ideals like “delay-to-the-gate” blackouts (where a fixture can’t be shown live in a city unless a minimum number of seats are sold) or similar requirements. As I have covered before, if the intention is to broadcast in the regular manner on to the Internet as would be expected for a regular TV service i.e. verbatim broadcasting with own talent calling the event and use of regular commercial and continuity material specific to the area, there shouldn’t be a difference.
As the NBN gets rolled out around Australia, we need to take action on being able to deliver the free-to-air TV content through this infrastructure in a similar manner to how it has been enjoyed.