Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats.
IPTV is distinguished from Internet television by its on-going standardization process (e.g., European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.
Historically, many different definitions of IPTV have appeared, including elementary streams over IP networks, transport streams over IP networks and a number of proprietary systems.
One official definition approved by the International Telecommunication Union focus group on IPTV (ITU-T FG IPTV) is:
"IPTV is defined as multimedia services such as television/video/audio/text/graphics/data delivered over IP based networks managed to provide the required level of quality of service and experience, security, interactivity and reliability."
Another more detailed definition of IPTV is the one given by Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) IPTV Exploratory Group on 2005:
"IPTV is defined as the secure and reliable delivery to subscribers of entertainment video and related services. These services may include, for example, Live TV, Video On Demand (VOD) and Interactive TV (iTV). These services are delivered across an access agnostic, packet switched network that employs the IP protocol to transport the audio, video and control signals. In contrast to video over the public Internet, with IPTV deployments, network security and performance are tightly managed to ensure a superior entertainment experience, resulting in a compelling business environment for content providers, advertisers and customers alike."
In 1994, ABCs World News Now was the first television program to be broadcast over the Internet, using the CU-SeeMe videoconferencing software.
The term IPTV first appeared in 1995 with the founding of Precept Software by Judith Estrin and Bill Carrico. Precept developed an Internet video product named IP/TV. IP/TV was a multicast backbone (MBONE) compatible Windows and Unix-based application that transmitted single and multi-source audio and video traffic, ranging from low to DVD quality, using both unicast and IP multicast Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real time control protocol (RTCP). The software was written primarily by Steve Casner, Karl Auerbach, and Cha Chee Kuan. Precept was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1998. Cisco retains the IP/TV trademark.
Internet radio company AudioNet started the first continuous live webcasts with content from WFAA-TV in January 1998 and KCTU-LP on January 10, 1998.
Kingston Communications, a regional telecommunications operator in the UK, launched KIT (Kingston Interactive Television), an IPTV over digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband interactive TV service in September 1999 after conducting various TV and video on demand (VoD) trials. The operator added additional VoD service in October 2001 with Yes TV, a VoD content provider. Kingston was one of the first companies in the world to introduce IPTV and IP VoD over ADSL.  In 2006, the KIT service was discontinued, subscribers having declined from a peak of 10,000 to 4,000.
In 1999, NBTel (now known as Bell Aliant) was the first to commercially deploy Internet protocol television over DSL in Canada using the Alcatel 7350 DSLAM and middleware created by iMagic TV (owned by NBTels parent company Bruncor). The service was marketed under the brand VibeVision in New Brunswick, and later expanded into Nova Scotia in early 2000 after the formation of Aliant. iMagic TV was later sold to Alcatel.
In 2002, Sasktel was the second in Canada to commercially deploy Internet Protocol (IP) video over DSL, using the Lucent Stinger DSL platform. In 2006, it was the first North American company to offer high-definition television (HDTV) channels over an IPTV service.
In 2010, CenturyLink – after acquiring Embarq (2009) and Qwest (2010) – entered five U.S. markets with an IPTV service called Prism. This was after successful test marketing in Florida.
In 2011, TOT (Television Organization of Thailand)Launched We-TV IPTV service over its ADSL service. The offering has four tiers of service from a basic platform of free over the air channels in Thai language to a full slate of entertainment packages offering various international satellite networks in Thai, English, French, Korean, Indian and Arabic languages .
In December 2009, the FCC began looking into using set-top boxes to make TVs with cable or similar services into network video players.
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