The recent availability of new, as well as evolved technologies in consumer devices and networking capability, makes the long-theorized possibility of the NextGenTV truly a reality today. Let's examine each of the components that comprise this vision.
First, the availability of smartphones and other inexpensive Internet-connected consumer devices like Slingboxes have made it possible to deliver technical functionality that most had never dreamed of. The combination of low-cost hardware components, the ubiquity of Ethernet and Wi-Fi availability within most homes, plus common, open software platforms like the Android operating system, are accelerating the pace of innovation. The functionality found in a cable box is actually quite trivial compared to the computational flexibility that smartphones and other inexpensive consumer devices are delivering already. Outputting an Internet-based video stream can be done today without having these devices break a sweat.
The next barrier has always been the greatest - the last-mile of Internet access. In the days of dialup and low-speed DSL access, video of any decent quality was a pipe dream. However, current DSL and cable modem speeds routinely deliver 10M to 20Mbps for roughly $50 per month. Add to that the recent introduction of 4G wireless availability, and delivering one or two high-definition TV streams of reasonable quality is well within the realm of possibility for the typical consumer.
The lack of low-cost consumer video output devices and insufficient last-mile bandwidth masked another major deficiency that prevented the possibility of TV over the Internet: the Internet was not up to the task. The Internet, based on a delivery mechanism known as unicast, simply could not deliver a high-bandwidth video stream to millions of simultaneous viewers in an economical manner. However, recent protocol advancements, which simplify multicasting, have enabled the Internet infrastructure to support high-bandwidth content to arbitrarily large audiences at minimal cost to the content provider. To understand this critical component of NextGenTV, let's take a closer look at unicast, broadcast and multicast data delivery.
Unicast, broadcast, multicast