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Internet television (or online television) is the digital distribution of television content via the public Internet (which also carries other types of data), as opposed to dedicated terrestrial television, cable television, and satellite television systems which only carry video. It is also sometimes called web television, though this phrase is also used to describe the genre of TV shows broadcast only online.

Internet television” is “over-the-top technology” (OTT). It is delivered through the open, unmanaged Internet, with the “last-mile” telecom company acting only as the Internet service provider. Both OTT and IPTV use the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network to transmit data, but IPTV operates in a closed system – a dedicated, managed network controlled by the local cable, satellite, telephone, or fiber company

In its simplest form, IPTV simply replaces traditional circuit switched analog or digital television channels with digital channels which happen to use packet-switched transmission. In both the old and new systems, subscribers have set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment that talks directly over company-owned or dedicated leased lines with central-office servers. Packets never travel over the public Internet, so the television provider can guarantee enough local bandwidth for each customer’s needs.

Higher-quality video such as video in high definition (720p+) requires higher bandwidth and faster connection speeds. The generally accepted kbit/s download rate needed to stream high-definition video that has been encoded with H.264 is 3500 kbit/s, whereas standard-definition television can range from 500 to 1500 kbit/s depending on the resolution on screen.

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