Video conferencing: the sequel

11 Dec 2006
00:00
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Another assault on the vidcon market, this time by vendors aiming to recreate the boardroom experience. But they don't come cheap

Network equipment maker Cisco made a launched its new point-to-point video conferencing system in Asia-Pac with a splash two months ago.

Its new TelePresence product allows users from two remote locations to conduct a meeting as if they are on the same room. Strategically-mounted backlights, beige-colored walls and semi-circular table attached to three 65-inch plasma panels with overhead camera help create a life-like boardroom experience.

The concept is not entirely new. HP and animation studio Dreamworks has launched a similar solution called Halo. Polycom said it will launch its similar RealPresence Experience (RPX) solution in Asia before the year ends.

The big rush to offer this type of conferencing in the market may have been driven by the fact that Asian enterprises do favor a collaborative environment. Frost & Sullivan, in its recent research on enterprise collaboration, found that nearly four in ten Asian decision-makers think conferencing is indispensable.

The research also showed that 24% of Asian business leaders are convinced that voice, video and Web conferencing are often more productive than face-to-face meetings, well ahead of their counterparts in Europe (13%) and the US (12%).

Telepresence systems, however, do not come cheap. A Halo studio starts at $425,000, discounts possible depending on the number of studios purchased. HP charges $18,000 maintenance charge per studio per month for customers in US and global business centers including those in Singapore. Cisco TelePresence on the other hand sells at S$299,000 ($191,600) for two rooms.

Vendors tout the solution to multi site companies wanting to cut down on travel costs through virtual meetings. 'Enterprises are likely to realize ROI from Cisco TelePresence in just six months if you factor in the costs of airfare, accommodation and other expenses incurred when you fly an expert or key executives overseas,' said K.C. Soh, director product marketing for Cisco Asia Pacific.

Asked about bandwidth requirements and total cost of ownership, Soh said Cisco TelePresence runs high definition 1080p video over IP using 2 to 4 Mbps of bandwidth per screen without requiring a dedicated line.

By contrast HP's Halo, which uses TCP/IP architecture and standard networking equipment, requires a separate IP network and 45 Mbps of bandwidth, which makes it more costly to buy and maintain than the Cisco's solution.

Standards-based
Interoperability may also be an issue. For instance, the Cisco's three panel TelePresence 3000 and single panel 1000 models only work with the Cisco network and Cisco's unified call manager software. The company said multipoint capability will soon be available but it would initially require the use of purely Cisco endpoints. Cisco said it does not guarantee interoperability with other telepresence solutions at this point.

Hansjoerg Wagner, managing director and VP of sales for Polycom Asia Pacific, said RPX is standards-based. 'Our customers will be able connect to an unlimited number of sites and people as well as any other standards-based video conference rooms or video-enabled IP telephony and presence-based desktop systems,' Wagner said.

Launched in the US in May this year, the Polycom RPX complete room solution costs $249,000 per room.

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