VoIP's next trick: mobile HD video calls

John C. Tanner
Telecom Asia

HD voice isn't the only technological advancement where VoIP has trumped the traditional telco sector. It's also done the same for video calls, and HD video calls could be next.

Telcos have been promising video telephony over fixed lines for decades, and in fact video calling was touted as a chief differentiator for the first 3G services eight years ago. Neither ever really took off for a variety of reasons, from cost and interoperability issues to a clunky user experience and the fact that most users didn't like the idea of being visible during a call.

But in fact video telephony has been around for several years if you count Skype's video function. Skype CEO Josh Silverman told an audience during his CommunicAsia 2010 keynote that video calls accounted for 34% of Skype-to-Skype calls in 2009.

"That means that if you look at figures from TeleGeography showing that 12% of all international voice calls in 2009 were Skype calls, that means that 4% of international calls included video," Silverman said.

The next frontier is mobile, and Skype is already exploring that space with Skype Mobile Video for the Nokia N900, which enables Skype video calls over Wi-Fi or 3G to other N900 devices or to PCs, and later to flatscreen TVs with embedded Skype clients.
Silverman said it's early days to see how well Skype Mobile Video performs, and that the company is treating it as a learning experience for future rollouts with other devices.

"It will be good to learn from this and find out what our customers' expectations are from mobile video - how they use it, how that's different from the way they use desktop video and how we can make sure they get the experience they want," he said.

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