Consulting company Analysys says that MPEG-4 will most probably be chosen as China's IPTV encoding and decoding standard, which will be decided in the next few weeks.

China's IPTV industry policy, technology and standard workshop was held on November 24 in Beijing.

Based on information from the workshop, it is understood that the IPTV standard is currently being drafted. The first draft will be issued at the end of year 2005.

The standard will cover 7 aspects: business requirements, general structure, DVB, business platform interfaces, operation platform interfaces, support of the access equipments and study on video coding (encoding & decoding).

Analysys International believes that the most critical issue of IPTV technology is the coding standard. Telecom operators and broadcasting service providers can only solve this problem together. Although telecom operators are trying to push the process of IPTV commercialization and formulate related technical standard by themselves, it is still impossible for the IPTV industry to boom since the only IPTV license is in the hand of Shanghai Media Group.

Telecom operators have a similar attitude towards the two major coding standards of H.264 and MPEG-4 as other players in the industry value chain. They know H.264 is theoretically advanced, but the technical immaturity and higher cost of H.264 DVB have driven the operators into a dilemma: to deploy MPEG-4 first for its much lower risk and then update it later at a fairly high cost; or deploy H.264 from the beginning at a rather high technical risk.

For broadcasting service providers, the current standard they adopted for digital TV is MPEG-2. To transfer the MPEG-2 programs into MPEG-4 format is much easier than transferring into H.264 format. So although the broadcasting industry didn't clearly show their thoughts, Analysys International believes they prefer to choose MPEG-4.

Analysys International thinks that the coding standard will inevitably become the result of a balance of risk, cost and time between telecom operators and broadcasting service providers. If they want to reach an agreement and set up a standard by the end of year 2005, MPEG-4 will most probably become the choice of both parties.

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