by Mariette Johnson Wharton, VP of Marketing
A report in July-August 2010 Channel Vision Magazine (circulated to nearly 20,000 channel partners and wholesale carriers selling voice, conferencing, IP and other network-based services), points to the growing demand for video conferencing outside of purpose-built room systems.
In the magazine’s “Beyond the Conference Room” report, Martin Vilaboy argues that video outside the conference room “gets really interesting only when sessions can be initiated across all types of endpoints, from telepresence flat screen to an iPad in a hotel room, and vendor brand names attaches to services and endpoints don’t make a difference.” That, and it’s an easy to use, on-demand service. “Only at that point,” Vilaboy maintains, “does it truly become accessible for SMBs to routinely collaborate with partners, customers, mobile workers, suppliers, etc. At this point, for an SMB to achieve interoperability on its own, it would require tens of thousands of dollars in network investments and some degree of IT resources.”
Even though the major video conferencing vendors have made advances towards standards and cross capabilities, seamless connectivity still presents what Vilaboy terms “significant challenges” including firewall traversal and a “market landscape, from Google to Cisco, of proprietary platforms and technologies.” In the report, Vidtel CEO Scott Wharton notes that even when standards are established, it can be hard or impossible to get them to work together since the SIP standard is an interpretive one, meaning interpreted differently by various vendors. This is too much for the average SMB IT department and even the video VARs to handle so they tend to recommend that customers stay with one vendor’s brand and use it for internal use only.
The key to widespread SMB deployment of business-grade video conferencing will be a service provider solution “that can deliver affordable and robust hosted services”, Vilaboy reports. Outside of a hosted solution, SMBs would have to invest in gateways, session border controllers, service bridging, and SIP proxy functionality. Then, there are cases where SIP needs to be integrated with H.323, which is not a simple matter.
Ugh. Most SMBs don’t even know what those terms means, nor should they have to (we think). As an alternative to SMBs undergoing this infrastructure investment, cloud-based service provider Vidtel put all this functionality in the cloud and offers a hosted service for a monthly fee.
Our approach seeks to have SIP, H.323 and proprietary video conferencing systems all work together. The Vidtel network also has the capability of integrating with the PSTN so local phone numbers can be used for regular phone calling as well. Multi-point is easy, too. The bridging function hosted in Vidtel’s data center enables multi-party video conferencing.
Vidtel pursues a channel strategy to deliver service and has announced deals with hosted voice providers to integrate the Vidtel multi-party video conferencing service. Vidtel’s SIP core enables the hosted voice providers to use SIP trunks for bridging to Vidtel. End-customers then dial into the bridge on-demand with a 10-digit number from their Polycom VVX1500, LifeSize Passport, Tandberg E20 or other standard device.
The Channel Magazine report begs the question of how long the lower quality and lack of support of software-based consumer-oriented video conferencing solutions will be tolerated by businesses. Research Now’s study demonstrates that audio quality is as important as the video experience. “With user expectations raised by the popularity of HD everything,” the report quotes Research Now, “video conferencing or video chat without HD voice and HD video usually results in poor user experiences.”
PC-based solutions are limited by processor speed, Wharton points out. It’s the same reason people prefer to watch movies on TV vs. on a handheld device – better processing capability provides better quality.
As video device prices are shrinking and hosted solutions become more available, HD video conferencing will come more into the hands of the SMB market. “Endpoint prices are starting to come down, ” Wharton is quoted, such as from LifeSize, Cisco/Tandberg, Sony and Polycom. “What’s not coming down is the complexity or the need for someone to manage things in the middle.”
All of this is good news for Vidtel.