IPTV VS Analog MATV – What’s the correct choice for distributed TV entertainment?

IPTV VS Analog MATV – What’s the correct choice for distributed TV entertainment?

One of the key requirements in every hospitality infrastructure (being it a hotel or a man-camp for a remote oil and gas site) is to provide the guests with a selection of TV entertainment channels in each room.

These solutions usually consist of a “head end” system where satellite and/or terrestrial TV channels are captured and then distributed over the TV network to each TV installed in the rooms.

Up until only a few years ago, the only well-known solution was MATV (Master Antenna TV also known as SMATV – Satellite Master Antenna TV), where the TV channels were “modulated” at the head end over different TV channel frequencies and then distributed over a coaxial distribution network.

Recently however, there is a growing demand for IPTV solutions. As the name suggests, an IPTV system depends on LAN infrastructure (computer network) to fulfil the same function.

Benefits of IPTV over MATV/SMATV

IP-based technologies are for sure the future of everything and the same is true here! There are many benefits of an IPTV system over an MATV/SMATV – some of the most important ones are:

  1. Higher picture quality: an analog MATV system is highly susceptible to poor image quality and distortions like ghost images and snowy pictures, while in a well-implemented IPTV system, there is zero downgrade of picture quality.
  2. Unified communication medium: if there is a proper LAN infrastructure in place or if we’re talking about a complete new installation, IPTV would not need separate cabling apart from the LAN infrastructure while for MATV, separate coaxial cabling would be required.
  3. More channels: while in an analog MATV the total number of channels that can be broadcasted is limited to 80, in an IPTV system there is no such limitation as long as the proper LAN infrastructure is in place.
  4. Interactivity: unlike analog MATV which is a one-way system, IPTV solutions provide 2-way interaction giving access to great features such as internet browsing, Video on Demand (VoD) and customized hospitality features.
  5. Wide distributions: as IPTV is based on IP technology, the solution can be distributed over wide areas in such a way that there are now many providers who offer IPTV services over the internet.

Challenges of IPTV

Based on the above benefits of an IPTV system, should you go ahead and replace your existing SMATV tomorrow? Well, there are key challenges that might make this a difficult decision to make:

  1. Need for a good LAN infrastructure: IPTV systems can’t be implemented just over ANY existing data network. You need to make sure the existing network can actually support the required bandwidth for the IPTV multicast packets and that the network switches do support features such as IGMP Snooping. If not, you end up with a flooded data network and totally unusable, jittered TV images.
  2. High Equipment Costs: Although like all such new technologies, the price of IPTV equipment is sharply dropping every year, the extra costs can still be a decisive factor here.

The other alternative: DVB MATV

In cases where there is a lack of a strong LAN infrastructure, replacing poor quality SMATV systems with IPTV would not seem cost effective. However, there is still another alternative to consider: DVB MATV (Digital Video Broadcast). These systems also work over the same coaxial network used by MATV, but broadcast the channels in DVB (digital) format so they would be a mid-way but cost effective solution to considerably enhance the picture quality of an old MATV system without the need to change the cabling structure. (This is considerable for the renovation of entertainment systems for large hotels where the re-cabling of the whole building would be too much trouble).

Future of TV Entertainment

With no doubt, analog MATV systems are rapidly becoming outdated and replaced by IPTV systems. It would be up to the current MATV owners to decide the “right time” for the swap!