What is video conferencing?
According to a report from Ovum, businesses are set to increase expenditure on video conferencing equipment in services from $2.9 billion in 2011 to $3.8 billion in 2016. This brings with it both fresh opportunities and challenges for the telecoms community, which will be looking to enhance connectivity to drive mainstream video adoption.
How can operators help prepare for the growth in video conferencing?
Video conferencing today is often limited to businesses using desktop or room video equipment to hold conferences with other sites owned by their company. Communicating with other businesses relies on video exchanges, which can handle the routing of the call as well as operate bandwidth and transcoding capabilities.
Many major telcos, such as AT&T, Tata Communications and BT, have already brought exchanges to the market, and in the case of AT&T have even managed to connect 38 Fortune 100 companies to its exchange. Yet the video conferencing exchange market remains in a stage of early development, and exchange implementation is costly. Ovum urges wise timing for operators entering the market and careful selection of vendor equipment to support the move.
To date, operators have failed to successfully introduce a large-scale directory of businesses to an exchange, hindered partly by privacy concerns from the business community. Ovum identifies such directories as a key tool in the widespread adoption of video conferencing and points to greater education by operators to address those concerns.
How can operators help simplify a video conferencing call for the end user?
Simplifying the process of initiating a video conferencing call for end users remains a priority for operators and equipment vendors alike. Ovum believes that even today it is still too difficult for end users to set up video calls, who must often input IP addresses to connect their call. Also, the analyst firm points to the lack of integration with accessible scheduling systems.
Operators offering managed services to businesses have found a way round this problem. By offering a managed service, an operator can ensure that a call is set up and ready to be used at the desired time and for the correct endpoints. By doing so, no input is required from the end user other than to schedule the call.
Scheduling a video conferencing call via a managed service is typically carried out through an operator’s portal or through the business’s own exchange implementation. During the call, operators typically provide live support, monitoring real-time network issues such as traffic spikes or latency, as well as being available to add or disconnect new sites from the call.
What role can operators play in resolving interoperability issues?
Ovum points to interoperability as the other major hurdle facing operators. The area continues to be an issue for businesses wishing to conduct video conference calls using endpoints from different vendors. Connections are possible between most combinations of endpoints, but this can affect both the quality and sound of the call, particularly if multiple screens and data sharing is involved. This is also a result of video conferencing equipment being built using different proprietary codecs and security techniques.
A large part of resolving the interoperability issue hinges with the equipment vendors. Progress from vendors with regards to interoperability has to date been slow, but the formation of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum in May 2010 may help drive uniformity. Businesses still find it easier to purchase equipment from a single vendor, but more are increasingly turning to operators or specialist video players to carry out gateway functionality on a much larger scale.
Orange Business Services, for instance, provides transcoding functionality, quality-of-service (QoS) enabled networks, endpoint management, simplified scheduling and concierge services as part of its Called Open Video Presence. These types of managed services have obvious appeal to businesses, removing the headaches of interoperability as well as ensuring QoS.
What are the future prospects for operators in the video conferencing market?
Managed video services will be an increasingly attractive option for businesses in the future, and Ovum predicts that operators are well placed to win a majority share of the market. The analyst firm indicates that the most popular managed services tend to involve an end-to-end management of a business’s video environment, which includes management of the network, applications and endpoints.
Telecoms operators with more advanced services in these areas will therefore be better positioned to benefit from the growth of adoption of video conferencing. Likewise, access to remote locations is an attractive proposition to businesses, particularly in regions where there is little experience of supporting complex video environments, such as Latin America.
In the long term, however, Ovum feels the growth of managed services for video conferencing could become more limited as endpoints become more standardised, allowing simpler in-house management, and as networks continue to improve to become better equipped to support video.