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November 1, 2003
PicturePhone Take 2
Consumer Video Calling Vendors Tap Telcos for Distribution
By Khali Henderson
Now that most telcos are gearing up
for the triple play voice, data and video videophone vendors are
looking at them as a ready and willing distribution channel for their broadband
video calling products.
These are not the videophones of decades past that suffered
from choppy, fuzzy and delayed video traversing standard analog phone
connections, but TV-quality interactive video communications over broadband
Viseon, for example, recently launched VisiFone, a broadband internet video appliance featuring 30 frames-per-second, and fully interactive
video and audio communications over any highspeed Internet connection of 128kbps
to 512kbps. VisiFone does not require a PC and it has an integrated sixinch
color monitor and CCD camera (used in machine vision, inspection, quality
monitoring, security and remote monitoring). Equipped with a full duplex speakerphone, VisiFone also can be
plugged into any size television so two or more callers can participate in the
call. Users also can connect a camcorder or digital camera to the unit to share
pictures or movies of special events, or as remote cameras for close-ups or to
create a home surveillance system. The system retails for $599.
Since calls run over the Internet, they represent a natural
upsell or bundle for DSL or cable broadband service providers. This summer,
Viseon announced SBC and Sprint FON Group were testing the phone. Viseon
President and CEO John Harris says the company has been talking for more than a
year to all the RBOCs and the top 10 MSOs as part of a strategy to deliver the
phones to consumers; Viseon expects direct sales will generate corporate
accounts. Harris says these potential partners are evaluating the videophones
potential impact on broadband sales and whether they would prefer to
private-label the unit or sell Viseons phone. A TV set-top unit also is
available and may be attractive to MSOs in particular.
Broadband service providers also can collaborate with Viseon
for distribution of its branded phone as a VAR or capitalize on the retail
channel Viseon in developing. The company is working deals with high-end
catalogs for placement later this year and early in 2004. In September, Viseon
retained TVA Productions, a Los Angeles-based communications firm, to develop
and launch the multimedia campaign for VisiFone designed to generate more than
22,000 placements on TV, radio, print media and airline in-flight programs.
Incorporation of multipoint bridging services could call for a
revenue-sharing arrangement or Viseon may include that capability directly into
the end point under more traditional distribution structures.
In mid-September, VCON Inc., a video communications company,
and Orca Interactive, a provider of interactive television (iTV), also
demonstrated a high-quality video conferencing solution for home TV subscribers
intended for distribution through telcos.
Video conferencing provides telcos with an excellent source
of additional revenue as well as helps to reduce subscriber churn, said Yosi
Glick, vice president of business development, Orca Interactive. It is a
premium, high-quality service with a userfriendly interface and a high number of
applications that are very enticing to consumers. For example, sports fans can
chat with friends about the big game as they watch on live TV and grandparents
can see and talk to their grandchildren as they say goodnight from far away.
The VCON/Orca solution combines the VCON HD100
videoconferencing engine with Orcas RiGHTv for TV set-top boxes, enabling
home subscribers to communicate visually using the familiar TV user interface.
The solution was demonstrated as TV-to-TV video conferencing
and TV-to-PC video conferencing. In TV-to-TV video conferencing, a subscriber would use their
TV remote control to establish and conduct a video conference on their home TV
to another home TV subscriber. The HD100 video-conferencing engine sits next to
the TV set-top box and is managed by Orcas RiGHTv application. In TV-to-PC
video conferencing, a PC user could use their IP video conferencing system to
call a home user on their TV, or vice versa, allowing for business-to-home video
The HD100 is a video conferencing engine in a compact design,
producing high-quality video with low latency and IP conferencing data rates up
to 2mbps. With integrated streaming and an embedded MCU, Orcas RiGHTv
application also could include multipoint video calls and streaming
We are excited to see a consumer-based video conferencing
application created with the HD100, said Gordon Daugherty, president, VCON.
With the HD100s exceptional video quality and low latency, combined with
the RiGHTv technology, home users could enjoy high-quality video conferencing at
a reasonable price for the first time.
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