Is video over IP the silver bullet for Videoconferencing?

For as long as we can remember, the telecom industry has been talking about a world with inexpensive, easy-to-use videoconferencing available to millions of PCs around the world.  Well it just hasn’t happened.  Connectivity costs have been too unwieldy and reliability hasn’t always been the best.  Equipment costs and ease of use have improved, but without the appropriate business case on the connectivity side it hasn’t mattered.  That said, video over IP appears to be creating renewed interest across the industry in making this vision a reality.

So let’s take a look at some examples of services that appear to be gaining traction across the industry.  We’ll look at three:  Glowpoint Networks (Wire One Technologies), Viditel (Santa Cruz Networks) and MASERGY .  Each of them has addressed the issue a little differently.

A network built for video over IP

Wire One Technologies is a provider of end-to-end videoconferencing solutions with an installed customer base of more than 3,000 companies and approximately 22,000 videoconferencing systems. Services based on its video over IP systems are delivered via the Glowpoint network, which is dedicated to H.323 videoconferencing. The goal of the Glowpoint network is to improve the quality, reliability, and functionality of video communications at dramatically lower network transmission costs.  The Glowpoint network was created specifically to support IP to enhance videoconferencing solutions.  Another priority for the company was to make videoconferencing work like audio conferencing - in other words, in a way users were familiar with and accustomed to. This entailed call setup, help and billing functionality similar to that of the audio conferencing world.  Service packages also include the required equipment.

Be the equipment vendor and the service provider

Santa Cruz Networks is a provider of real-time Internet communications systems. Its products are designed to enable high-quality, real-time communication featuring one-to-one or many-to-many audio and video, application sharing and instant messaging, over the Internet or any other IP network.  The company has a patent-pending technique for providing service performance, security, reliability and simplicity, and presence, directory and billing services are also included in their offerings. To date, Santa Cruz Networks products have delivered over 1.5 billion user minutes worldwide.

In order to develop interest in its video over IP solution, Santa Cruz Networks created a service provider to allow users and potential customers to try the service.  But the main goal in creating this service provider is to sell network appliance products to "real" service providers so they can enable their own video over IP services. Viditel is one such example.  This is a voice and video calling plan that works over broadband for the home or business.  Users purchase calling plans similar to what they would in the landline or cellular world -  the difference is, these are video calling plans. 

Enable the transport

MASERGY is a privately-held global service provider focused on offering businesses predictable, high-quality transport of enterprise applications, including voice and video services.  It serves customers in 18 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Latin and North America.  Its services leverage Multi-protocol Label Switching across an IP-based network.  MASERGY offers services in three categories:  Intelligent Transport, Application Services, and Control Services. Application Services encompass voice and video. 

MASERGY's inCONTROL Video is specifically engineered to deliver guaranteed TV quality videoconferencing (constant 30 fps, synchronized audio/visual, and zero "tiling") at all times, under all network conditions.  This service is backed by a service-level agreement that includes key performance metrics such as:

•  100% packet delivery. 100% in-sequence packet delivery. Maximum latency variation (jitter) of 10ms. Sub-1 second fast fail-over (network recovery).

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In summary, video over IP offers end users some options to alleviate historic concerns with videoconferencing:  costs, ease of use, reliability. IP-based videoconferencing is here now and is happening; and options exist across the marketplace for all different sizes and types of end users.

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