IPTV – Will Telefonica shut me off if I start watching UK TV over the net?

In brief: Probably, although they don’t admit to it. I got interested after no fewer than two people asked me today, so I thought I’d have a look around.

The reason is because internet speed depends on two things: the infrastructure, and the number of people connected to it.

IPTV is a small decoder that is attached to your router by either a HDMI or AV cable connected directly to your television. A computer elsewhere sends the TV signal over the internet to the decoder which then turns the signal automatically into a signal for the TV. Internet Protocol TeleVision it means.

Right, speeds. How does your network speed work?

So let’s say the local switchboard has a fibre optic connection. That switchboard is connected to your home by copper wires (around here, anyway). That switchboard is capable, in theory, of giving every subscriber 10Mbs, as per contract. That’s the speed between the switchboard and you.

But the single connection out of the local switchboard to the main network has a fixed speed, for the sake of argument let’s say 1Tbs.

So everyone gets 10Mbs to the switchboard. But from the switchboard out to the main net, it’s that single line divided between everyone who is using the net. If 10 people are online, no problem. If it’s 1000, we’re stuffed, because that line out just can’t guarantee everyone the bandwidth they want. So some people get pushed to “the back of the queue” and it seems natural that it’s the heavy users (or abusers) of the system who suffer. In fact, Telefonica admit to this in their ADSL contract. (See below)

Since July 2013, Telefonica has applied a Fair Use Policy to its mobile data connections, which work in much the same way. This means that if you have a mobile data connection (ie, via the 3G network, or your mobile phone) once you get over a certain amount of data usage, your speed is automatically reduced to a cruddy 16 kbps/8 kbps, unless you’re on a premium account (See here).

So if you use a lot of bandwidth on your mobile phone, you don’t get charged more, but for the rest of the month your speed is atrociously slow.

Now, for ADSL connections, no such Fair Use Policy applies (it does if you’re in the UK on Telefonica owned O2, I should add).

However, a limitation of service applies, according to the current ADSL contract.

So the contract specifically says that if saturation of the network occurs speed cannot be guaranteed and that the bandwidth is distributed to users on technical means; and furthermore, it specifically warns that high use internet programmes such as P2P or automatic updating of software (and IPTV is pretty damn high use) may result in a reduction or saturation of bandwidth that is not up to Telefonica to fix.

So there’s your answer: Although there is no “fair use policy” capping the amount of bandwidth you can use, if the network is saturated, or you simply clog up your local connection, then your network speed will drop below what you need for IPTV.

So it will normally work. But at peak times, it will probably stop working, especially out in the sticks.

Now, what if you’re not on Telefonica?

Vodafone say exactly the same: if the network is congested, people get slowed down until the congestion ends (Vodafone dispone de sistemas de medida en las redes de voz y datos que monitorizan el tráfico de los elementos de red para detectar situaciones de alta carga (congestión) y aplicar las funcionalidades de red más adecuadas para maximizar los recursos y así ofrecer el mejor servicio adaptado a esas situaciones.)

I’d imagine the other providers have the same weasel way out. Of course, you could pay for Telefonica IPTV imagenio  service or similar, which seems to alleviate these problems, at least according to the Spanish network forums. The theory is that since the network has been warned to expect high traffic from Imagenio users, they don’t shut you off. No idea if it’s true.

What if you have a wireless provider? Wimax, Next, or similar?

Well, here we have the same congestion problem everyone complains about: when everyone is using the network, the cable to the transmitter gets congested and it slows down.

For IPTV to work, you’re going to need a connection of at least 2 Mbps. To try it out, just try streaming TV over the net to your computer for as long as possible, see if it breaks – try out YouTube or a decent site that you guess isn’t overloading. Check with the company before contracting.

Here in Turre, I often (legally and sometimes paying for the service) watch Spanish TV programmes on catchup. Weekend evenings especially, you just can’t do it – the network is too slow. I’d imagine IPTV is going to be worse.

Oh – and it’s an educated guess as to whether some of these IPTV companies will be around in six months time. A lot of them aren’t legal services – If they´re based in Spain they’re probably illegal (you can’t retransmit TV for profit without the licenses, and the authorities crack down with gusto on those who do), and I’d imagine a similar legal situation exists in the UK. So they’re often a chap in a bedsit in Blighty with a PC and sat box transmitting out. Not all are, but I’d carefully check the prospectus before shelling out hundreds of euros.

So, what’s your experience / thoughts on the matter? Comments below!

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6 Replies to “IPTV – Will Telefonica shut me off if I start watching UK TV over the net?”

  1. Questions for your more tech savy followers.

    1. what about satellite internet – not wimax

    2. what about these US companys such as unblock and tellypass

  2. Andrew – we have Tooway satellite internet – fantastic speed – 20mg download but a maximum monthly allowance of 30 gig – which is loads but would not be enough for internet TV. It may work for catch-up though as we have unlimited downloads from 12-7am. Generally this service is great though way faster than anything else here and very reliable.

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