Infonet Services, a top-tier ISP in El Segundo, Calif., is offering its first IP-based videoconferencing service, which is available in 33 countries.Dubbed IP Video VPN, the service allows multinational companies to connect their videoconferencing systems across Infonet's private IP backbone. IP Video VPN uses standard Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology as well as a special, prioritized class of service that Infonet has designed for video communications.\u00a0Infonet's IP Video VPN is aimed at enterprises that are looking to migrate away from expensive ISDN-based videoconferencing so they can take advantage of a lower-cost IP services. ISDN services are charged on a per-minute basis, while IP services have flat rate pricing. IP-based videoconferencing systems also offer simpler call set-up and easier to use interfaces than ISDN systems."ISDN costs are OK within regions, but when you go internationally is when the costs soar," says Mike Lee, product manager for video services at Infonet. "In terms of reliability, ISDN hasn't improved much since it first came out."How much companies can save with IP videoconferencing depends on how often they are using their ISDN services. Infonet says multi-national organizations that have locations in three regions of the world and support three or four hours of videoconferencing a day can expect 50% savings from the IP Video VPN when compared to ISDN services.Infonet's IP Video VPN has been under development for about a year."Many of our customers are already running videoconferencing over our highest data class of service," Lee says. "Developing a special video class was driven by demand from our customers. In the last two years, we've seen a big drive toward IP-based video conferencing."Infonet has already signed up several customers for its IP Video VPN service. One is a risk management organization that is using the service to support videoconferencing between locations in Hong Kong and the U.K. Recently, this customer extended the service to four more sites in Asia."This company was doing its videoconferencing over ISDN, not over our network but on a separate network," Lee says. "The utilization of the ISDN network was limited and had dropped because of the unreliability of ISDN on an international basis. It was a combination of high call charges from Asia and poor quality, low-speed ISDN that contributed to the application not growing within the organization."In order to take advantage of Infonet's services, companies need to have H323 IP-based videoconferencing equipment.In September, Infonet will add a gateway service that will allow customers to communicate between their IP Video VPN service and off-network ISDN sites. Also in September, Infonet will add usage-based pricing for companies that require occasional videoconferencing services.