Are You Ready For Video Communications Services?

By Bud Walder (Profile)
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Friday, November 16th 2012
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The global convergence of broadband networks, video content and mobile technologies have end users in a feeding frenzy – witness the meteoric rise of smartphones, tablets and mobile applications, and build-out of public WiFi and broadband mobile data networks such as 4G/LTE. This convergence is helping spawn a new era of video communication services where video equipped smart endpoints are connected to broadband networks everywhere. Today’s end-users want to leverage the hi-definition displays and cameras that are integrated into smart devices, and the applications which offer better communications with and within their social networks. And that’s not limited to users who are on-the-go; it also includes end-users tied to their workstations and those relaxing in front of network connected flat screen TVs. Calling, conferencing and collaborating using the richest mediums – HD voice and video – is what today’s end-users want, and even expect.

Video communications services (VCS) use end-to-end IP networks to deliver real-time communications services that go well beyond VoIP as a PSTN replacement. Most current VoIP services are delivered by MSOs and over-the-top (OTT) service providers (think cable operators and services like Vonage, respectively). VoIP services tend to be narrowband, voice-centric PSTN replacements even though most of these services are delivered via next-generation broadband IP networks. So they offer a user experience similar to the PSTN voice services they replaced; ‘toll-quality’ (narrowband) voice communication services with value-added voice services such as voice messaging, 3-way calling, and caller-ID. This first wave of IP communications essentially enabled new players (without networks such as Vonage) and MSOs to compete with traditional PSTN operators, generally on cost. But IP based communications can offer so much more, adding presence, IM, chat, video, conference, HD voice codecs, screen sharing, and other, richer communication functions to their services.

Delivering Video Communications Services

Today’s global IP network infrastructure is enabling communications services to be abstracted from carrier’s networks, both terrestrial and mobile. In essence, the transport network and the communication service are separate entities. In this environment, traditional network operators and communications service providers have to compete with new OTT communications services, like Skype, that ride virtually free on the operator’s networks. Consumers are using OTT services in increasing numbers to meet both business and personal voice and video calling needs. With this success, many global technology brands known for web services, applications, and social networking armed with extensive marketing strength are also investing in these OTT services. All of this OTT activity threatens legacy service providers’ core communication service revenue streams. Skype-based sessions alone reportedly exceed 300 million minutes per month, of which 50 percent are video calls.

In this environment, savvy communications service providers are moving rapidly to deliver richer voice and VCS over their wired and wireless broadband IP networks, adopting a similar service delivery methodology as their new OTT competitors – in a nutshell, using apps on smart endpoints. Their advantage as network operators resides in the ability to deploy the service on their terms, which can both extend the availability and accessibility of the service, as well as ensure the quality.