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Consortium Pushes Videoconferencing Interoperability

Polycom is leading the new Open Visual Communications Consortium, which aims to tear down the silos among different service providers.

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Videoconferencing technology vendor Polycom is leading a newly formed industry consortium to improve interoperability of the technology in order to push wider adoption of it.

The Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) is intended to enable people working at different companies to conduct voice and videoconferences regardless of what conferencing service each of them uses.

The goal of the OVCC is as simple as one cellphone being able to call another, even though each are served by different carriers, said John Poole, senior director of business development at Polycom.

"We're giving all our end customers what they're asking for, which is, 'don't make me have to think about who's on the other end and what network they're on and who did they buy it from,'" Poole said.

Service providers in the OVCC can differentiate themselves to be competitive but still provide a base level of service so users will have the same experience conferencing with others, he said.

The OVCC would operate a cloud-based service where participants in a voice or videoconference would make a reservation for a particular time and provide a number that people would dial at that time. Conferences could also be set up on an ad hoc basis on short notice. Like the Internet model, participants would take different routes on a network to reach the same conference bridge, just like people from different locations take different routes to reach a particular website, Poole said.

Service providers joining the consortium include telecommunications service providers in the United States and abroad, including AT&T, Verizon, BT Conferencing, Orange Business Services, Airtel, and Telefonica, as well as enterprise network providers such as Global Crossing.

Improving interoperability is consistent with Metcalfe's Law, said Poole, which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.

Already, Forrester Research forecasts the worldwide enterprise unified communications market to grow to $14.5 billion in 2015, from $3.75 billion in 2010.

"A critical priority for almost every CIO is to improve collaboration within their firm, and thus drive effectiveness and efficiency," said Henry Dewing, a Forrester analyst. A 2010 Forrester survey of telecommunications professionals at businesses revealed that 47% of respondents were giving a high priority to implementing or expanding collaboration technology.

"OVCC is founded on the concept that open video services delivered in cross-carrier environments will enable open video communications to become as ubiquitous as open telephony services delivered in cross-carrier environments," Dewing said.

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