Explaining IPTV principles and benefits

Anton P. | February 18, 2021

IPTV refers to Internet Protocol television and might be a common term in cord-cutters’ vocabulary. It describes the technology behind serving media content via an internet connection. Thus, IPTV does not rely on light pulses through fiber-optic cables or radio signals from satellites. Of course, your internet connection also uses this technology, but it differs from the one transferring TV signals. Before replacing broadcasters of traditional television formats with online alternatives, you should learn several details. We will discuss IPTV principles, its competitive edge in the market, necessary setup, and whether a VPN can improve it.

What is IPTV?

It is a system that serves TV content over IP (Internet Protocol) networks. Instead of referring to a specific device, it defines the way media content reaches consumers. The distribution of content over the internet is nothing new, as this technology emerged sometime in the 1990s. However, the demand for IPTV has increased over the years. Studies predict that the global market will be worth $117.8 billion by 2027.

Its main contribution is that users can enjoy quality content, interactivity, and control over what they wish to watch. The service makes it possible to integrate television with broadband internet services sharing the same home internet connection. It is also a budget-friendly alternative as the cost of IPTV services is significantly lower than with traditional television formats.

Naturally, IPTV shares characteristics with Netflix or Disney+ as it follows similar principles. However, IPTV typically delivers television channels, and their range depends entirely on the service selected. Some providers can choose to extend users’ experience with VOD (video on demand) or time-shifted media.

  • Video on demand. If you use Netflix, you are familiar with this concept. It means that you can tune in to view content anytime you want. VOD services typically present seemingly never-ending libraries with shows or movies. It frees consumers from following broadcasting schedules, giving them full control over the media they watch.
  • Time-shifted media. This type of media content delivery means that users can watch television shows after they are over. It is a popular model, and many broadcasters allow their clients to watch recordings of content they missed. However, catch-up TV is different from VOD in the time frame that the content is available. In VOD, you can watch the show now, and it will likely be available after several months. Time-shifted media has a limited shelf life. Some providers grant access to recordings from the last two weeks.
  • Live TV. It basically means that an IPTV service allows you to view TV channels as they air. Thus, it mirrors the traditional TV-viewing experience. The only difference here is that the content reaches you via the internet connection.

What setup do you need for IPTV?

IPTV might not require a lot of preparation and is relatively hassle-free. You find a service, complete the necessary steps (such as registration for a subscription), and start watching. You can do this via your browser or by downloading a separate program. It mostly depends on the service you choose. However, you might need a set-top box for viewing IPTV on your television set. The box stands in as a translator between your TV and router. It converts the content you receive through the internet connection into a TV-readable format. Your computer and smartphone have all the power to do this on their own. However, some providers might stream content only to set-top boxes.

Is it illegal?

By definition, there is nothing illegal about IPTV. It is a technology that brings TV content through your internet connection. It is mostly about the provider you choose, which is the service supplying the TV channels.

Many IPTV services choose a niche or a country that it serves. For instance, many providers specialize in live sports streaming, and this market has boomed over the years. BBC iPlayer is also a great example. It presents time-shifting content and is only available to people living in the UK. However, there are cases when IPTV can be illegal. Providers might not have the necessary licensing to distribute the content. Thus, as long as the IPTV service complies with copyright infringement laws, it is perfectly legal.

IPTV and a VPN: benefits it brings

While there is no apparent reason an IPTV service would not work without a VPN, this tool can contribute to your experience. There could be exceptions, such as when providers serve content on their own networks. Then, a VPN could prolong the content delivery to your device. Nevertheless, there are situations in which a VPN can have a positive impact on your viewing.

For one, your Internet Service Provider could choose to throttle your connection. After all, IPTV services require high-speed connectivity, meaning that ISPs could deem you a heavy user. A VPN encrypts your web traffic, meaning ISPs cannot tell precisely what you are doing online. As a result, they won’t detect nor throttle bandwidth-heavy activities. An important note here is that ISPs could prevent users from accessing their own IPTV services through a VPN. Hence, the effectiveness of a VPN can depend on the provider you have selected.

Additionally, a VPN can be the tool you turn to watch IPTV when you are abroad. Since many services can impose strict geo-restrictions, they might be unavailable in many parts of the world.

IPTV is an excellent choice for people looking for ways to end their long-term commitment contracts to traditional broadcasters. Many providers will supply quality services. However, remember to treat offers that seem too good to be true with caution.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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