A Brief History of UC&C, Part Four: Video Collaboration

Today we'll continue our mini-series on the evolution of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) with a discussion on how video became part of the equation. As with other components of UC&C, the road to telepresence and other video-over-IP solutions was crafted with several building blocks.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF UC: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Looking back to the mid-1960s, video conferencing was born with the AT&T Picturephone, followed two decades later with a more commercially successful introduction of ISDN video conferencing systems. The popularity of ISDN systems peaked about five years ago, just as most enterprises were looking seriously at how to bring voice over IP onto their network.

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As we have already pointed out in this series, IP was the winning protocol in the LAN, and it soon became a winning protocol for WAN connections. But unlike ISDN video that can support video at speeds as low as 384Kbps, high-definition video over IP in its earliest iterations needed much more bandwidth for good quality, demanding capacity of up to 10Mbps at each endpoint for immersive telepresence.

Luckily for video, capacity on the LAN has grown (e.g. 10Mbs to 100 Mbps to GigE) and price for WAN bandwidth has declined on a relative scale. Also important, the ability to differentiate and manage real-time traffic on both LAN and WAN was needed to enable VoIP, and the network upgrades for VoIP also enabled also video over IP. Perhaps more important, video compression techniques have improved dramatically over the last five years so an HD quality, immersive experience (telepresence) video conferencing room screen can now be supported at connections speeds under 3Mbps.

Also contributing to the popularity of IP video collaboration is the wide range of prices and choices of both hosted and premise-based options. And on the business requirements side, many businesses have found that a high-quality video collaboration session can replace more costly in-person meetings, reducing travel expenses. Finally, the ability to integrate video sessions with other applications like document sharing, presence management and a remote audio bridge have also added to the value of video as an important part of many UC&C solutions.

Next time, we'll discuss the final piece of the puzzle as we cover fixed mobile convergence. Then we'll wrap up our summer series on UC&C with an analytical summary and a look ahead at the future. Read part 5 of this series.

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