What Is IPTV and How Does It Work

Since the advent of the internet in the last years of the 20th century, the TV industry is undergoing critical changes. This became more obvious lately, with the massive revolution of video streaming taking a big piece of the broadcasting market. 

What changed on the TV or film industry in these years? Are people watching different movies or shows? Is this revolution related to the content we like? Are the audiences so dramatically different today since they were in the year 2000? We think that the answer to all these questions is no. The innovations related to content aren’t faster or in a way so different than is being happened in the last 50 years.  

What Is IPTV and How Does It Work

What it really changed was not the “what,” but the “how”. The most significant innovations are related to audiences choosing when and where to see a show. The days when we have to organise our entire day if we don’t want to lose our favourite TV show are gone, and they are now who tries to offer us a content that we can enjoy in our own way. 

This is the moment when IPTV start to shape its concept, trying to unify the TV with the new trends that came with the internet the revolution. Let’s take an in-depth look at what precisely this acronym means. 

IPTV: a TV for the Internet age 

As we said, the properties of the Internet broadband are maybe the primary reason why IPTV was born, to cover a hole that it’s impossible to fill for cable or satellite services. It is not the technology itself, but how to give to the audience new possibilities and how much the audience’s lifestyle is related to that concept. 

Internet Protocol Television or IPTV is simply the technology that allows high-speed broadband to deliver digital television. It is an attempt to create an entirely new experience with TV, following the most common new uses of the internet. 

How does this happen? The server sends data packages with a specific encoded protocol created for this purpose, that can be transformed in images with a set-top box offered in the services of IPTV companies. This service is usually bundled with VoIP and access to the internet, creating a complete pack of multimedia and communications access for the customer. Providers use a closed network system to deliver the service, that was first introduced in the US by Verizon and AT&T. 

IPTV: how it works 

A set-top box known with the acronym STB is the main tool to display IPTV in your television. Usually, they support both AKA multicasting television programming and video streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others. 

Technically, the main difference between this both services is that VoD (Video on Demand) services such as Netflix are unicasting, which means there is a server that provides each user with its own codec when demands to use the platform.

Television programming works with multicasting, which means a group of users access simultaneously to the same content. Services like DAZN (live sports) in Europe have both; the multicast when they are broadcasting live events, and unicasting to watch a game after it was streamed. 

When you yo use satellite or cable standard service, is precisely the cable what sends the signal to your receiver device. IPTV works with set-top box STB similar to standard television service but using your internet connection. In turn, the internet is used to decode the video streaming packets and convert them into HDTV. 

Things to take into account about IPTV 

If you have the opportunity and want to have the experience of IPTV, there are some recommendations that you should know before taking that final decision.  

One of the most important is related to your internet service. IPTV will take some critical part of your internet power to deliver you a stable and high-quality signal. Bandwidth will be demanded from your STB, which is not only something to take into account a consideration to make if you share a flat, but also if you suspect that your service is not precisely powerful. Check and recheck if your internet service is powerful enough to install an IPTV service at home. 

Another aspect so important than the latter is that your provider should use True Intelligent Routing. It is basically a technology that efficiently uses your bandwidth, automatically rerouting traffic to keep working as fast as possible. Considering that this technology is kind of expensive, not all IPTV services will provide you with that, and this combined with a poor internet connection can be a problem.  

The pricing is another thing that is related to the last paragraphs of this article. One thing that as customers, we are not going to tolerate is to receive a weak signal, which is basically constant image freeze and another headache related to these situations. Some services really solved this problem, but you have to pay their effort in a scary bill that will break your spirit monthly.  

Using the set-top box STB 

Usually, you set up your STB connecting it at your local internet service and using A/V connectors to plug it with a TV. Then, the STV uses built-in software to access to the television channels.  

An exciting feature of the STB is that when you connect the STV with your broadband router, any device that you connect with the network can access to the service, including smartphone, laptop, TV or tablet. Moreover, you can use this IPTV setup to connect video devices likes cameras that can be used, for example, as a home monitoring devices.  

How many people use IPTV? 

The last information available, provided by Digital TV Research, estimates the subscriptions to IPTV close to 200 million around the world. This number was not considering the Coronavirus pandemic that hit the world in 2020. Anyways, we are talking about a huge amount of homes in the world using this technology.  

Big economies like the United States, Japan and India, are countries where the IPTV market is growing the most in the last years. As you can imagine, future projections are uncertain in times of Corona. Still, we can expect that after the lapse of economic contraction, digital services keep their growing process and even accelerate it.  

IPTV legal issues 

In the last years, IPTV technology is facing some significant difficulties to become a usual way that people access to television. The reason is that the service is being provided by small companies, especially in small countries, without having the legal right to do it. Basically, making business with content that they are legally not able to do it.  

This is a situation that attracted the attention of legal systems and the media. The image of IPTV service was damaged because of several reports of illegal activity due to violation of copyright.  

Pros and Cons of IPTV 

If we talk about the advantages, IPTV is a natural evolution of old television services taking advantage of the technological possibilities that internet offers. This is not only related to the service itself: the pricing for triple packs like television, internet access, and mobile phone service into a single bill paid monthly, is reducing the costs we pay for it.  

If you like internet because of the freedom that gives you to watch your favourite shows, films and games whenever you want to, IPTV takes that into account and add it to the traditional multicasting TV service. You will be able to rewind, fast forward, or pause your shows and enjoy them in a moment of the day that suits you. 

IPTV features potential interaction with TV shows. Nevertheless, we have to say that this is not totally explored at this point from the producers perspective. We have some way to go until we really know if people decide that this is something fun to do.  

There are some downsides for IPTV as well. Firstly, the significant amount of bandwidth that is going to take from your internet connection. This is an alert, especially for shared flats, when each member has their own world in their homes. It’s not helpful to have your internet absorbed from one of your roomies or do that to the rest of your little home community.  

Some IPTV services have a limit of data transfer, and this is for sure something that you will not enjoy if we insist on the central aspect of the internet that everybody loves: freedom.  

Finally, there are IPTV boxes that not support Universal Plug and Play, which is an excellent way to connect your device with another and make streaming exchange. 


IPTV is finding its spot in the market with a concept that is absolutely connected with trends regarding internet usage in the last decade.  Television industry evolving with the rest of the world is the kind of thing we expect as customers.  

But it is impossible to say that IPTV doesn’t have some challenges to face before became a truly massive thing. And we have to recognise that the most important part it’s not on them: the internet connection. 

Nevertheless, IPTV is here to stay with us, and if you are a big fan of TV culture, this is a service that you should really try and get used to it. There is a big chance that is the way we are going to enjoy television at least in the next decade.