IP networks do the trick for video conferencing

CIOL Bureau
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BANGALORE, INDIA: Video conferencing is certainly not a new application to enterprise communications users. Room to room video conferencing has grown from its introduction at the World’s Fair in 1964 to a widely deployed enterprise application around the globe. Video conferencing as a general business application however, while promising to become mainstream during the last 50 years, has remained a special purpose application and a niche market.


Yugal Sharma, Country Manager, India & SAARC, Polycom.Video conferencing’ inherent benefits, such as facilitating in-depth interaction levels and reducing travel expenses have often been offset by a number of technology and operational issues. Expanded bandwidth and special networking requirements have limited its integration with the enterprise’s overall communication network and made it an overlay application that required special attention and administration.

Today, a number of changes have occurred that are stimulating an increased interest in video conferencing as a mainstream business application. The first change has been the growing deployment within businesses of IP Telephony based upon converging voice and data networks into a single integrated and robust network with enough bandwidth to accommodate video applications.

By creating a networking layer that can easily incorporate video streams into its transport mechanisms, the move to IP networks has broken down one of the technical barriers to broader deployment of video conferencing.


A second change enabled by IP Telephony is the ability to set up sessions that can carry multiple media streams while using telephony and windows based interfaces to achieve click-to-dial video conferencing setups between parties on the conference. Multi-party conferences can also be set up using video bridge technologies in a similar fashion.

A final factor that is facilitating a leap in the ease of use for video conferencing is the incorporation of SIP enabled presence within soft phone applications. This technology allows users at their desktops trying to set up a video conference to know if the person they are connecting to has the ability to enable a video call from their end.

Video conferencing can be easily added to a voice call by simply activating the video application on each end of the existing call.


The migration to IP Telephony along with the incorporation of standards based interfaces to other applications promises to open the door to a rapid expansion of video conferencing. Ironically, video conferencing is being discovered as a “new” IP enabled productivity application.

In addition, the extension of business telephony features to video endpoint devices makes video calling as natural as voice calling, while providing enterprise class call handling capabilities and scalability. For example, users now can have the ability to setup a call coverage path for a video call in the same way and with the same capabilities as a voice call.

If somebody calls on a video endpoint and the called party is not at their desk, a coverage path would direct the call to voicemail or a coverage assistant. The system can recognize whether the receiving endpoint (i.e. voicemail system or coverage assistant) has video capabilities and if not, the call would fall back to a voice only call. Easy call set up and coverage features had not been available for video until now.


The ability to expand video conferencing to any IP Telephony connection has the potential to deliver substantial business and employee productivity value to enterprises. Extending video interaction to employee conferences can make sessions more focused, productive and potentially shorter as clarity and real time decision making are facilitated.

Customer Requirements for a Video Telephony Solution


While the convergence of technology trends has enabled the arrival of mainstream video conferencing application, to achieve mass acceptance and deployment, communications applications providers will need to address requirements at three levels.

The next generation of video conferencing will have to address overall business drivers, cost and manageability requirements of an enterprise’s IT group and finally the usability requirements of employees.

No matter how impressive new technology capabilities might be, they need to justify their acquisition of serving enterprise business objectives.


Mainstream deployment of enterprise video conferencing must be built upon business case justification that includes facilitating global business growth, decreasing or offsetting existing business costs, improving employee productivity and enabling virtual business models with highly mobile workforce groups.

The next threshold that must be addressed is the specific requirements of IT decision makers in adopting widespread application deployment. IT Managers require applications that are easy to install, operate and manage.

New applications must also integrate easily with their existing network and leverage that infrastructure, thereby increase its value and payback. Open standards are often a critical requirement for new applications because it facilitates integration and prevents vendor ‘Lock-in”.


Finally, IT managers are concerned about the economic payback for new application deployment that dovetails with enterprise business objectives.

The third set of requirements would be to meet the needs of the employee user community. New technology acceptance and adoption can sometimes be pushed from power user communities who are driving for greater personal productivity tools.

Besides, being simple, easy and convenient to use, the application must also markedly improve personal productivity, enhance working relationships, and lead to faster and more efficient decision making within the enterprise.

Video Conferencing tightly integrated into telephony has the potential to meet the business, IT, and user requirements that will open it up to an impressive adoption rate over the next few years. Thus, moving the application from a specialty to a mainstream productivity tool.

The author is the country manager, India & SAARC, Polycom. Polycom is the provider of unified collaborative communications solutions (UCC) for enterprises.