An IPTV signal is a stream of data packets traveling across the Web.Internet TV is relatively new -- there are lots of different ways to get it, and quality, content and costs can vary greatly. Shows can be high-quality, professionally produced material, while others might remind you of Wayne and Garth broadcasting "Wayne's World" from their basement. Traditional TV networks are also easing into the technology and experimenting with different formats.
Internet TV, in simple terms, is video and audio delivered over an Internet connection. It's also known as Internet protocol television, or IPTV. You can watch Internet TV on a computer screen, a television screen (through a set-top box) or a mobile device like a cell phone or an iPod.
It's almost the same as getting television through an antenna or a series of cable wires -- the difference is that information is sent over the Internet as data. At the same time, you can find even more variety on Internet TV than cable TV. Along with many of the same shows you find on the big networks, many Web sites offer independently produced programs targeted toward people with specific interests.
There are two things that make Internet TV possible. The first is bandwidth. To understand bandwidth, it's best to think of the Internet as a series of highways and information as cars. If there's only one car on the highway, that car will travel quickly and easily. If there are many cars, however, traffic can build up and slow things down. The Internet works the same way -- if only one person is downloading one file, the transfer should happen fairly quickly. If several people are trying to download the same file, though, the transfer can be much slower.
In this analogy, bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway. If a Web site's bandwidth is too low, traffic will become congested. If the Web site increases its bandwidth, information will be able to travel back and forth without much of a hassle. Bandwidth is important for Internet TV, because sending large amounts of video and audio data over the Internet requires large bandwidths.
The second important part of Internet TV is streaming audio and video. Streaming technology makes it possible for us to watch live or on-demand video without downloading a copy directly to a computer.
There are a few basic steps to watching streaming audio and video:
1. A server holds video data.
2. When you want to watch a video, you click the right command, like "Play" or "Watch." This sends a message to the server, telling it that you want to watch a certain video.
3. The server responds by sending you the necessary data. It uses streaming media protocols to make sure the data arrives in good condition and with all the pieces in the right order.
4. A plug-in or player on your computer -- Windows Media Player and RealPlayer are two popular examples -- decodes and plays the video signal.
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