Some More Details About iiNet's FetchTV Box

If you saw yesterday's post on the upcoming FetchTV box and thought to yourself, "That looks cool, but I want more information", then you're in luck. Because we've got some more information right here:

Hardware: The box itself runs a Broadcom 7413 400MHz dual core processor to support 1080p (and in the future, 3D content) playback. There are three DVB-T tuners on board for recording two free-to-air channels simultaneously while watching a third, and there's a 750GB HDD inside. The HDD is partitioned into three parts - 50GB is reserved for FetchTV operations, 400GB is reserved for Push VOD, which means that the service will push content onto your device, which allows you to start watching instantly when you choose to watch it, while the remaining 300GB is reserved for recording TV shows. That 300GB gives you about 110 hours of SD recordings at MPEG2 (or 330 hours of MPEG4).

The device has 512MB of RAM, two USB ports for peripherals like keyboards and mice, and perhaps the most interesting feature of them all, a credit card reader built in for future online transactions like online shopping.

Online content delivery: The FetchTV platform uses multicast IP delivery over a closed ISP network. Here's the explanation of what that means from the FAQ:

FetchTV utilises Multicast IP delivery over a closed ISP network. Multicast is an alternative to the traditional Unicast delivery model most commonly associated with IPTV and video streaming to the PC. Unicast is commonly referred to as “pull VOD” as customers often select a video service, then wait for download or stream to commence.

Unicast is a “One to One” delivery method that can place significant demands on ISP’s networks. As such, content is often metered and Unicast content providers often deliver content in low resolution to reduce network demands.

Examples of unicast delivery models include the VOD services on: TiVo, Appletv, iView, yahoo!7, Playstation, X-box, etc.

Multicast utilises a “One to Many” delivery method making it far more efficient than Unicast. Multicast significantly reduces the demands that video delivery places on ISP networks, and therefore supports the delivery of high resolution programming (HD and SD). In the case of FetchTV, multicast content is also unmetered by partner ISP’s.

Multicast delivery does require specific ISP network equipment and compliant modems. Many Australian ISP’s have recently upgraded their ADSL2+ networks to support multicast, and have migrated to compliant modems in anticipation of this opportunity.

Multicast delivery is crucial for the successful delivery of TV and video services over broadband.

With the FetchTV multicast model the closed network architecture (managed platform) guarantees control over bandwidth allocation, contention ratios and content delivery. Push VOD is delivered and stored on the STB during periods of network inactivity or at speeds that minimise contention. This facilitates efficient use of the ISP network and provides subscribers with access to instantaneous viewing of video on demand with no download delay.

Control over Quality of Service (QoS) allows ISPs to give FetchTV content higher priority than other IP traffic. This ensures no degradation of the linear subscription TV picture quality irrespective of what other internet use is occurring in the home at the same time.

So essentially FetchTV are claiming that this technology allows them to guarantee the quality of content delivered to the FetchTV box over IP. It also means that you may need to upgrade your modem.

PVR: The PVR will let you record two FTA channels while watching a third, which is all well and good, but also allows you to record content from the linear IP Pay TV channels.

Installation: For most people, the FetchTV box will be delivered via post or courier and you'll be able to plug it in yourself. However, there are some occasions the ISP will configure a custom install, like if you want internal ethernet cabling or need an extra aerial put in.

FetchTV Services: Depending on your bandwidth, you can get different FetchTV services. Here's a rough guide:

The credit card reader: Here's what the FAQ says about the credit card reader:

Online payment Support for secure payment transactions will be added to FetchTV later this year. For payments, FetchTV will utilise the same SSL security as traditional on-line payments. The built-in credit card reader on the STB ensures that the card is present, and pin code utilised, for any transaction. This arrangement improves security for both the customer and vendor. The FetchTV platform will facilitate external application providers to utilise the STB and payment facility (known as t-commerce).

So, after all of that, what do you think? It's certainly a different route from TiVo and Foxtel, yet promising all the same. Is anyone desperate to try this out?


Comments

    Any idea if recordings can be transferred off the box? i realise the VOD stuff would be locked down but what about the usual recordings?
    It looks good so far but i think id wait to get all the details

    Multicast is great for the ISP but removes choice and on-demand control from the user, and inevitably is a waste of time.

    Why?
    In essence Multicast just enables the recreation of what FreeTV/Free-to-Air & Foxtel currently do, except instead of broadcasting one signal to everyone at the same time over air/cable/satellite, it is instead done over broadband.

    Tech rundown:
    In essence, FetchTV only need to provide one fat pipe of data containing all of their channels to an ISP. The ISP then "broadcasts" using multicast and only needs to send the packet out once. The network will then only pass this on to end devices that have "subscribed" to it. This is good for FetchTV & good for the ISP... but...

    What does this mean to users?
    Users who are used to on-demand, right-now programming (ie AppleTV, Xbox 360, or services like Hulu in the USA)?

    It means that we users are back to watching what the network tells us to watch when they choose to broadcast it. Miss an episode? Too bad - you have to wait for it to be replayed. Want to skip ahead to an episode? You can't, not until they've finished playing this one.

    I personally think whilst it's a nice offering for people used to the way TV works today, it's not going to be enough for people that want full choice over when they want to watch content.

    Is Unicast a hit on ISP services today? Yes and no. Every web page, YouTube clip, streamed music, iTunes download, Xbox 360 Zune Video download etc is Unicast. It's the way the web is heading and is what customers are demanding. Multicast is the wrong direction.

    What to do?
    The only medium-long term answers to ISP bandwidth concerns are:
    1. Keep increasing bandwidth.
    2. Support the NBN.
    3. Roll out technology that gets more people onto ADSL2+ technologies that can do more than 8Mbps.
    4. Work with content providers around the world to cache content locally and stream from local data centers.

    Conclusion:
    Multicast is a stalling tactic. The internet is changing the way we consume media & Unicast is it. Doing anything but supporting this progress is short-sighted.

    Regards,
    Shane.

      Awesome description of the differences between Multicast and Unicast Shane, thanks..
      Saves me having to go look it up elsewhere

        Good Post Steve, however it does state they will offer VOD content as well as Multicast linear channels.

        Therefore it's the best of both worlds, scheduled programming jsut like FTA is now, and the ability to watch what you want when you want from the VOD library.

        @Michael,

        It states they will offer VOD content via Push VOD:
        "Push VOD is delivered and stored on the STB during periods of network inactivity or at speeds that minimise contention. This facilitates efficient use of the ISP network and provides subscribers with access to instantaneous viewing of video on demand with no download delay."

        This means it's NOT Video on Demand as in Unicast VOD - it's stuff they fill your hard drive with that you can select from. It's not streamed. This is pretty much the same thing as Foxtel's Box Office HD VOD "service"

        So no it's not the best of both worlds. On Demand Video is being able to access content that becomes available on the Internet as soon as it is available, not when your ISP or Content Provider decides it should be on your Hard Drive.

        Regards,
        Shane.

      Not a bad detail of multicast vs. unicast, Shane, however you're totally ignoring the 750GB hard drive.

      By offering the user the ability to record-and-watch-later, Fetch TV are providing a feature as close possible to the 'watch anytime' preference you're saying is required.

        The ability to "record-and-watch-later" is great (if it works for IPTV channels too - and it looks like it should), but it's still just a standard PVR feature, just opened to looking at the Multicast video stream like a Tuner.

        The internet is moving to streaming, whether the commercial networks like it or not.

        For example, look at the recent U2 concert that YouTube streamed Live around the world. Love or hate the band - it was a phenomenal achievement and the direction things are headed.

        Whilst FetchTV could possibly support this by re-broadcasting it live over multicast as a special event, they can't cover every event that happens nor will they suit all tastes if they offer a selection.

        Unless FetchTV come out and state they will also support Unicast streaming over the internet for services such as YouTube, Ustream, Qik, Vimeo etc, they are only giving you what they want to give you, which for me is not enough.

        I think companies shouldn't just be recreating what we already have with a different tech to lower the costs, but truly innovate and take the current movement in online video streaming and package it for the masses.

        FetchTV are just a cheaper version of Foxtel, except instead of cable & satellite, they use FTA and a closed-broadband network.

        Regards,
        Shane.

      Shane, iiNet have said they're offering *both* Push VOD (delivered via Multicast) as well as the streaming (Unicast) VOD you favour. Never mind that if they can fit all their VOD offerings on the PVR's HDD then the result is the same!

      My hope is that 1) they will offer the PVR to do the latter without the purchase of a BoB, and 2) they'll let you configure IPOE on your own modem (unsupported) to get the full range of features.

    Looks good, I don't want foxtel, and I already have an iiNet naked dsl service. Content will be a considerable factor in me getting the service however.

    3 Tuners sounds good though, I only have 2 in my current PVR. Ice Tv compatibility would be nice too.

    Give me premier league football on this at a reasonable price and I'll sign up. Sick of Foxtrl gouging me out of money by forcing me to by channels I don't want in order to get the content I do want.

      Live Sport seems to be the only safe place for the Multicast concept.

      Apologies for all the typos.. fat fingers and a tiny iPhone.. :)

      I still don't understand why an organisation hasn't tapped in to legal live sports streaming over IP yet. I personally think this is the incumbents weak spot. With the right licensing I think this would lead to massive defections from Foxtel.

        Paul,
        Your suggestion re live sports won't work as Telstra own the online rights to the major sports in this country

    I agree with Shane, but I think the question is whether the uptake is rapid enough to warrant investment by iinet until replacement technologies and services are ready. This product/service needs to target the tech-savvy, but more complacent consumer that is happy to be fed product because the alternatives are unpalatable (i.e. grey areas of copyright) or bothersome (too much work).

    From a market perspective, if it can get a toehold then it becomes a competitor to foxtel et al and thus will help drive competitive improvements in services and thus benefit all of us indirectly. And if it creates a revenue stream for iinet that helps keep it competitive and aggressive in the other markets that we care about, then 'Mores the better'.

    I am really keen on trying this out.
    I dont have Foxtel in my apartment or a PVR (I keep postponing purchasing the PS3 one) and I have a naked ADSL2 plan with iiNet.
    I also only really watched Foxtel for National Geographic and Discovery. So this really seems like a perfect device for me.
    Will still have to wait to see on content though.
    Aside from that I really want this to come out soon!

    As long as there's plenty of HD at a decent bit-rate content, I'm in. I'm sick to death of the low bit-rate 1440x1080i HD FTA broadcasts with their blocky MPEG2 artefacts and crappy Dolby 2.0 sound. And that's when we're even lucky enough to get true HD as the majority of it is just up-converted crappy SD.

    I'm a Blu-Ray convert and if I'm going to pay for additional VOD services I expect them to at least come close to the high bit-rate 1080/24p/DTS HD content I'm now used to.

    does bit-torrent use multicast? seems like an AWESOME application for it... can private users even multicast? or is the ISP like NO!

    anyway, I already have a multicast push VOD service, its call free to air tv...

    Fetch TV is not real IPTV. It's a limited collection of over the air channels from a TV tuner.

    Also the video on demand requires a huge 750 gig hard drive that will drive the set top box to over $300 USD cost to IINET and to us the consumer.

    The video on demand will be a download only service and I hate to think how long it will take to download movies from this service. It will be easier to go get a DVD or Blu-ray at the video store.

    Fetch TV is a weak half measure that will fail like Bigpond download video on demand PC service of a few years ago.Tivo was canned here in Australia and by my prediction so will Fetch TV.

    We here in Australia need to innovate, and this weak half measure isn't it!!!

    George Benson

      Who has canned Tivo, Mr Benson?. And no, I don't own one.

    Wow, George Benson, do you work for Foxtel? In addition to the FTA channels (both SD and HD), the box will offer "real" IPTV of 20 or more channels, plus VOD. The VOD will be true on-demand, because 400GB of the HD is reserved for pushed VOD, so when you "demand" it, it will already have been pushed to your hard drive courtesy of iinet's multicast.

    Having said that, to Simon Reidy: the FTA channels will still be via your antenna so there will be no improvement in HD quality on those channels. But whatever HD services are provided via IPTV could well be.

      Whilst it is technically VOD, it's only half way. The FetchTV product is VOD "pre-downloaded" solution, ie Fetch fill your box with stuff they think you'll like.

      The better (for the user) is up-to-the-minute VOD-Streaming, which can only be done via Unicast, and would then support commercial and non-commercial broadcasts, suiting all needs, not just mainstream.

      In this day and age, an IP connected STB should be able to bring the benefits of the Internet to your TV. Fetch is just picking things and putting them on your STB hoping you'll like something from their list. This might be enough for some people now, but as more media goes online it's shortsighted.

      Somehow their statement: “FetchTV has been developed to satisfy the entertainment needs of the 70% of Australians" doesn't seem to ring true. Many of that 70% are people finding their media content through more instant legal and "illegal" means, and will do so if the content publishers & licensors don't wake up.

      I for one hope devices like the Boxee Box from D-Link get here soon. It'll probably be too much to hope for local network support though seeing we're so backwards currently.

      Regards,
      Shane.

    while i think this is promising and certainly the box seems to be decently featured.
    I know i wouldnt be able to run it.
    I'm on iinet and yet I'm lucky to get 1.5Mbps let alone 7.5Mbps.

    i dont see any mention of divx etc playback and can any of the usb ports be used for extra storage.

    though with all my concerns im excited to see a bit of variety in the marketplace and maybe one day a connection that can make use of it

    to much speculation get's us nowhere, all I know is I need more than 1 box.

    I'm on a 4mb connection I got serious doubt's it will have a practical solution for me, though it doesn't stop me from wanting it..

    the question I got is has IInet bothered to think above 1 unit per household not to mention of the various media centres on top of this..

    Interesting comments Shane Lord.

    What could work is a website which streams content that interfaces with a remote control via a box/computer. You can sit back and surf channels on the internet.

    All that´s needed is a web app which can interact with an input device and plenty of content options. If you want to record something interface the box with an external storage device.

    Anything to open the modern media/telecoms technology world that Oz has fallen behind (thanks telstra). TV content here can also be a bit lame.

    Thanks for the article / info. Pity it's hard to find specific product performance / operational detail.

    From a professional TV and consumer point of view, a worthy PVR would ideally include adventurous design elements:

    1. Multiple channel recording with sub-channels. e.g. Multiple TP concurrent recordings from one tuner. Ideally four recordable tuners - independent destinations.

    2. Playback / Chasing Navigation:
    User assignable single-button instant jump (with picture per jump) - four steps: 2 reverse, 2 forward (e.g. -10, -30, +10, +30 secs) with supplementary minute options.

    3. Picture-In-Picture - any source viewer / swappable sizable / positional - on all outputs simultaneously (chipset)

    3. Media player compatible recording file format (incl. display screen port readable - capable TVs)

    4. Netwokable. File player / transfer / schedules - zero deficit concurrent background operations. IPTV option.

    5. Full USB functionality - import / export / record / playback / file transfer - zero deficit concurrent background operations.

    6. Saveable recording schedules - export / import.

    The above features currently exist in some - but not all - PVRs. All (and more) are possible with appropriate dedicated hardware platform design.

    I hope this wets the appetite of long-suffering under provided consumers. Time to step up designers.

    Regards,
    Phil

    Fetch TV, What a waist of time and money, I have had one for eight months, and there is still nothing worth watching on it, the quallity of content is crap. Repeats all the time, and bottom of the barrol shows. Free to air is better, only just tho. The streemed TV and movies are those that were on free to air six months ago. Dont get one you will regret it as I do. By the way I usaly dont bag stuff and I have no invested interest in saying this about Fetch TV but in hope somone from fetch might see this and do somthing about the crap content.
    Bill

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