IP-based videoconferencing ensures increased reliability, bandwidth and manageability
Enterprises are increasingly under pressure to do more things with fewer resources. People with dispersed team members or offices, customers and partners find that travelling for face-to-face meetings reduces their productivity and they yearn for an alternative way of communicating.
Many have recognised the potential for visual communications yet, in the past, found the implementation and management of technologies such as videoconferencing too complex and costly to justify deployment. However, organisations are beginning to realise videoconferencing holds tremendous potential for improving the way people communicate.
In the following article, Andy Bull, director for Mitel Networks Limited South Africa, discusses how this holds true, especially for IP-based videoconferencing
The advent of IP-based videoconferencing with associated higher reliability, increased bandwidth and manageability has removed some of the barriers to the adoption of videoconferencing. However, one of the biggest remaining barriers to videoconferencing is the user experience.
Building upon the experiences and technologies developed for circuit-switched networks (such as ISDN) and proprietary IP-centric conferencing solutions, a complementary and far more flexible suite of products and services is emerging today.
These and other innovations specifically optimised for packet networks are already included in the "umbrella" H.323 protocol. The H.323-compliant market reflects investments of a community of companies co-operating to provide complete solutions for conferencing on IP networks. The spectrum of solutions extends from conference rooms into network devices and even out to the desktops of individual users.
For example, telephony-like `supplementary` services such as call transfer, call forward, hold and hunt groups, are now possible in IP-based videoconferencing networks.
As a result of continued deployment of network infrastructure around the globe and in enterprises, there is also more IP bandwidth available at a lower price, and the bandwidth is more manageable than in any earlier communications network. Converged voice and data networks are gaining momentum and offer a transport option for video as well.
Unlike the ISDN network paradigm which charged customers a per minute usage charge, IP networks are considered more suitable for a flat "all you can eat" cost model. There are other cost benefits with IP videoconferencing associated with the fact that the management for the underlying IP network is already cost justified for data applications and that the network termination and packetisation hardware is ubiquitous.
Integrating Video Conferencing into IP Telephony Solutions With the launch of the Mitel Networks Voice FirstT solution, a revolutionary new concept integrating video conferencing capabilities into Mitel`s market leading IP telephony products, the user experience is squarely addressed and video communications is made as easy as the "touch of a button."
With Voice First, Mitel Networks has removed the last remaining obstacle to the widespread adoption of video conferencing, ease of use by making the set up of a video conferencing session as easy as placing a phone call.
Until the availability of Voice First solutions, videoconferencing terminals, be they group or individual desktop systems, have required the user to learn a new user interface before initiating and being productive during a video call. Some user interfaces appear on a monitor and navigation is performed using a handheld remote control to move from menu to menu and select options from any individual menu. Other applications, based on PC operating systems, rely on a keyboard and mouse for call initiation and control.
In addition, users (of non-Mitel systems) have been required to confer in advance of a video session to exchange the "phone number" (for ISDN) or IP address of the terminal to be called.
By leveraging the most ubiquitous and intuitive interface available to the business customer, namely a telephone, Mitel Networks` Voice First eliminates the need for user training, exchanges of dialling information in advance of calls and a range of technical support services associated with the use of complex communications devices.
The software application supports IP Quality of Service and the Interactive Multicast technology that enables an end user to multicast from the videoconferencing application to users on any multicast-enabled IP network.
Mitel`s Voice First is a breakthrough solution that will significantly improve common business processes. In the conference room, the applications for video enhanced communications include group meetings for project management and review. Board meetings are regularly conducted between remote locations via a videoconferencing service. At the desktop, the Voice First solution offers an unprecedented immediacy and ease of use. The convergence of voice, video and data made possible with Voice First will most quickly benefit those people in an organisation who need to enhance business relationships and voice meetings with visual information.
Although long promoted as the primary advantage of videoconferencing, the reduction or replacement of business travel by videoconferencing is a relatively short term and tactical view of this technology.
Voice First is key to enhancing the most widely used and customary communications device : the telephone handset. The immediate benefits of Voice First are that it makes a richer experience possible without raising the need for training, additional management personnel or higher expenses. With Voice First, the benefits of videoconferencing will be accessible to any size of enterprise.
Once the capabilities of videoconferencing are not longer limited to large enterprises and the FORTUNE 100, they will permeate value added supply chains, enhancing communications between companies that to date have relied solely on voice and data for their business activities.
The Mitel Networks application level solution leverages the power of IP networks, IP telephony and videoconferencing technologies to offer a tightly integrated and improved user experience anywhere in the enterprise.
Before the Voice First solution, collaborators could never be sure when video might add value. With Voice First, people may begin their meeting with voice and, in an ad-hoc manner enhance their communications with voice and video.