IPTV And WiMax To Have Huge Economic Impact, Panelists Predict

Forget the traditional set-top box. New content is exploding on the Web and being accessed by people via PCs, laptops, and mobile devices—and IPTV is responsible. It allows providers to create content for specific audiences.

The telephone companies are leading the pack in IPTV to compete with cable companies for movies on demand. But there are talks among cable companies to provide IPTV content on a subscription basis to customers, said Andrew Cleland, executive director at Time Warner Investments, during a panel discussion at Deloitte's forum.

There's also effort from technology vendors to bring IPTV to mass audiences. TiVo, for example, last week launched TiVoCast, a new service that delivers broadband video to TV sets of TiVo subscribers. TiVoCast is free to subscribers but supported by advertisers, which means viewers will have to sit through ads when watching video. However, "we're trying to get away from 30-second spots and are working with advertisers to bring more relevant ads that people will engage with and won't want to skip through," said Tara Maitra, TiVo's VP and general manager of content services.

WiMax was a more challenging topic at the forum. While some were doubtful that WiMax would achieve critical mass before it's overshadowed by a faster technology, others said it would make a splash in underserved markets with much higher speeds and longer ranges than Wi-Fi. Intel said it's making every effort to do for WiMax what it did for Wi-Fi and the Centrino platform. But, "I worry because I don't see WiMax being installed in many devise like Wi-Fi is today," said Andrew Rasiej, who leads the FON Wireless project—a global community of people sharing Wi-Fi—for New York City.

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It's still uncertain how WiMax will play out in the U.S., since most incumbent carriers are reluctant to give up their commitments to existing technologies. Additionally, WiMax requires licensed spectrum, but it's limited and expensive in the U.S., said Sheila Ryan, senior manager of Intel Capital.

So where will these technologies be in 2009? On the IPTV side, expect to see IPTV content from companies like GM and Wal-Mart. Video will be integrated into 90% of Websites, said Bart Feder, president and CEO of the FeedRoom, a creator of broadband video. On the WiMax side, Intel predicts laptops and mobile devices with fully integrated WiMax and Wi-Fi chips by 2008.

Most panelists agreed that the U.S. won't be the leading nation for WiMax technology and that it will be deployed in other countries lacking broadband infrastructures. In the U.S., it likely will be complimentary to existing networks and used for backhaul purposes.