Today there are many ways to watch television. Channel reception through the typical antenna cable is still very popular, but satellite, optical cable, and Internet streaming are also used. A variant that promised a lot is IPTV, or television over IP . Still offered by companies like Movistar, but other operators have abandoned it. However, there is a broad alternative black market for IPTV listings, which may be a bad idea to use. In this article we are going to try to explain what IPTV is, and how to use it .
IPTV was going to be the great revolution in television , but the complex infrastructure required, both at operator and user level, the increase in bandwidth and the improvement of streaming in general, has made the majority of operators, except for those with their own infrastructure, they have dismissed it.
From the user’s point of view it is difficult to distinguish IPTV from OTT services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video , because in both cases you receive Internet television channels, so we will explain what they consist of, and the differences between the two.
It is necessary to distinguish between the legal IPTV that some operators offer, and the paid or advertised IPTV lists that can be found on the Internet, of dubious origin.
In many cases they offer illegal content (pirated channels), in addition to possible viruses and spyware, if the connection is made from a computer. You have to be careful with this type of services.
Although a minority, IP television has a number of important advantages , so it can be interesting for many users. So it is important to know how it works.
What is IPTV?
IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television . This means that television arrives through an IP address, that is, through the Internet.
In simple words, it is a way of transmitting television online, but different from that used by popular streaming platforms, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
IPTV transmits television channels on demand to a specific IP address. The main feature is that it reserves part of the bandwidth of the Internet connection for television . In other words, if you hire 100 Mb, the IPTV connection can use 30 or 40 Mb for itself. You can only use the remaining 60 or 70 Mb for your things, even if you are paying 100 Mb. Even if you do not use the television channels, that bandwidth for IPTV is reserved.
IPTV creates a private and direct network between the operator and the user , so it can technically work even without the user connecting to the Internet, while the router and decoder are on.
The company that supplies IPTV needs to have dedicated servers that provide high-speed streaming, and special software to compress the video and send it to the requested IP address. For its part, the user needs a special decoder that receives that video, decompresses and decodes it, and displays it on the TV or monitor. In this scheme you can see it clearly.
The main advantage for the user is obvious: as you reserve part of the bandwidth only for IPTV in direct connection with the video servers, you will always receive the image with the highest quality , regardless of whether many mobile phones, computers have been connected at home , consoles, etc. And since most operators have dedicated high-speed IPTV servers, even if the overall network is congested, you will still receive TV with great image quality.
Therefore it is the best option if you want to receive Internet television with maximum definition , without cuts or blurring.
In addition, the decoder used with IPTV can provide some extras, such as the option to record up to a week of programming, or to rewind a live program. Since all access is personalized for each IP address, it is easier and more immediate to buy specific content , from a movie to individual chapters of a series, for example.
A priori everything seems better with IPTV, but it is not. It also has its downsides.
We have already seen the first one: reserve part of the bandwidth for it, between 20 or 30% on average. If you watch TV a little, you will be wasting that bandwidth most of the time.
Another drawback is that it requires more infrastructure than streaming , both by the operator and the user. The operator has to create a high-speed network, and compression and service software. For its part, the user has to install a decoder, in addition to the router itself.
In short, it has a high maintenance cost . This makes it more expensive than a streaming platform.
Another drawback is that it is more spyable . As it is a service that is sent directly to specific IPs, the operator knows what you see, and most use it to send you personalized advertising in the channel menus, or between programs.
Who offers IPTV in Spain?
At the beginning of the decade, all operators offered an IPTV service, from Orange to Jazztel or Ya.com. Almost all of them closed and were transferred to OTT, for the reasons that we are going to see.
The only one that maintains it is Movistar , but as a service to provide television coverage in areas far from switchboards or where fiber optics does not reach.
It is a technology that worked well in the early years of ADSL, but now with the fast speeds of fiber optics and 5G, it makes less and less sense, because it is cheaper and more practical to use OTT.
Differences with OTT
The free transmission OTT or Over the Top services transmit audio, video, and other content openly through the Internet, without the intervention of television or telephone operators.
There are many variations, from classic streaming video and music, to Internet radio, Voice over IP calls, etc.
What interests us here are the OTT services associated with television . It is what we basically call streaming television. From YouTube to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video . They broadcast openly on the Internet and anyone can connect to that streaming, either for free or upon payment of a monthly fee.
The main difference with IPTV is that OTT does not have reserved bandwidth : the video data is mixed with the rest of the data that circulates through the network, so the image quality will depend on the saturation of the network and the bandwidth of the user.
Before they were services with low image quality, and they barely offered functions to the user, so IPTV made sense. But with the advent of fiber optics, new video compression codecs, and better latency, today’s OTT services can offer the same as the best IPTV , both in image quality and recording, pay-per-view capabilities, etc. All this, with a much cheaper infrastructure and greater comfort for the user.
For this reason, most operators have stopped using IPTV and have switched to OTT .
What are IPTV lists
Until now we have seen how the entire official network of IPTV works. But there is a dark side that still maintains relative popularity: IPTV charts .
These are lists of IPTV channels that can be viewed through streaming , accessed through remote IP addresses. These lists are stored in a text file that usually has the extension m3u, m3u8, w3u , etc.
Some video players and decoders allow you to add IPTV lists to be able to watch more channels, and there is also specialized software, as we will see.
A priori, IPTV lists are perfectly valid. There are lists with free IPTV channels, channels that are not on the Internet, private channels, or paid legal IPTV lists, which allow you to watch streaming IPTV television on your mobile, without the need to use a decoder. But they also have their controversial part.
Software to view IPTV lists
There are countless applications that allow you to see the content of IPTV lists . Its use is very simple, since you simply have to add the server where the IPTV list is stored. This is done because the content of the list is constantly updated. And if you only add the IPTV list with the IP addresses the channels will not be updated.
We have generic software like the popular VLC Media Player , which is compatible with IPTV listings. In fact most are.
There are also specialized software such as Wiseplay , available for iOS and Android. But many others have been expelled from Google Play and the App Store for dangerously walking the border of illegality …
In fact, most of the players that give access to websites with IPTV lists have been expelled. Those who remain, demand to install the lists on your own, under your responsibility.
The dangers of IPTV charts
Although, as we have said, there are free lists, or paid but legal, many of the IPTV lists have a dubious origin. In some cases it is illegal reproductions of movies or series from streaming platforms, or IPTV channels that a user who has contracted the service illegally retransmits, in many cases, charging money for it. They capture the signal directly from the air, or even record it from a legal IPTV user, recode it and retransmit it.
These IPTV lists of dubious reputation have many drawbacks. The channels are usually full of advertising, have continuous cuts and failures, disappear without a trace, and even if you have paid money, they do not guarantee anything . The next day they may disappear.
In addition, the websites where they are hosted sometimes contain Trojans, spyware and advertising , cryptocurrency miners that are installed on your computer, etc.
The disadvantages are too high, compared to the uncertainty of being able to watch certain television channels for free, or cheaper. They are not worth it.
We have seen what IPTV is, what it is for, and its advantages and disadvantages .