updated 09:35 pm EDT, Wed May 25, 2011
Comcast goes through MIT to test IPTV system
Comcast revealed Wednesday that it was testing a TV-over-IP system for its network. A dry run on MIT's grounds in the fall would prove it can deliver its regular TV service using Internet protocol in a way that would simplify delivering it beyond TV sets. The move as cast by the Wall Street Journal would simplify watching real-time broadcasts on tablets like the iPad, Xbox 360s, and other devices that Comcast can't normally reach.
Its test might be operating in a gray area. Comcast said test wouldn't cost much more than before since it would ride largely on the existing network, but the cable company also wasn't asking for full permission from content providers because it was deliberately limiting the reach. More permission would likely be necessary for a wider test. Other cable providers, such as Time Warner, have faced a backlash from studios who claimed that any access to video over IP needed new licenses.
Comcast was already testing IPTV-like technology using an advanced program guide in Augusta, Georgia. The system allows for customized TV guides, an automatic recommendation system, and sharing over Facebook and Twitter.
IPTV isn't new for TV and is especially common among phone companies offering TV, such as AT&T's U-verse or Verizon's FiOS TV. Telus in Canada is using Xbox 360s as IPTV boxes based on Microsoft's Mediaroom. Cable providers' roots have made it harder for them to switch over, although CableVision has an IPTV system that let it provide virtually full iPad access to live TV without having to rehash deals.
Adding Comcast could still tip the balance and put a greater emphasis on Internet video and detaching TV viewing from traditional sets.