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Advances in backend infrastructure look set to propel teleconferencing technology into the mainstream.

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By  Administrator Published  January 5, 2008

Video conferencing has come a long way in the past few years, as improvements to backend communications infrastructure have led to enormous increases in bandwidth and speed. And with the latest breed of telepresence equipment - which combines large, high definition screens with high-tech acoustics, allowing people to have face-to-face meetings while situated in different parts of the world - the technology looks set to transform the business communication sector. CommsMEA talks to three industry insiders about the latest trends in the sector.

How are you seeing the teleconferencing market develop in the MENA region, and what do you think are the key drivers?

This is a transformational technology in the way people do business and build their organisations. It is not a single event.It is part of a unified communications approach - Andrew Elder

Elder: I think the market has been good for quite a while, but the thing that has always been missing has been the quality and the ease of scheduling teleconferences. That's been the inherent barrier that has stopped the market from being as good as it could be, because in places like MEA, there is nothing quite like face-to-face meetings.

Unless you can get that face-to-face experience from teleconferencing, it is an inhibitor of technology, so what telepresence really does is takes that to the next level. We have got the levels of quality that mean people can have face-to-face meetings without actually having to go there.

Parmar: We see a lot of growth for many reasons. Traditionally people saw it as a cost benefit. The first priority for people is enhanced communication between their teams but something else that has just recently come up is that it is more environmentally friendly, as people become more aware of the effects of flying and companies express a desire to cut down on unnecessary travel. Our equipment allows people to meet a lot more often and conduct meetings faster and more efficiently.

How does the Middle East compare to other worldwide markets?

Elder: We see this market as being very good. The technology has advanced, so it is effectively a new market. The experience now is totally different from video conferencing. This is going to be a hyper acceleration market because it is a totally different way of doing things.

There is an attitude in the Middle East whereby people want to leapfrog the more mature markets. They have more green field in terms of their infrastructure, so they can go straight to the latest and greatest and get all the benefits of unified communications, full collaboration with video, voice, data and mobility.

The Middle East communities in particular are looking at how they can better communicate without having to jump on a plane, and telepresence has really enabled them to achieve that. We will be seeing this with companies that are investing heavily in the region, including western companies.

Have sales of your telepresence products increased and what trends are you seeing?

Parmar: Sales growth varies year from year. At the moment we are seeing 30% to 50% in the MENA region depending on the territory. Each region has its own conditions. We are seeing 30% to 40% growth in the GCC.

We not only see that continuing but we think it will rapidly expand.

Olsen: Historically there has been a lot of business around meeting room solutions for six to eight people and in terms of revenue it is still the biggest portion. When people get used to video, they really want it on their desktop as well. We have seen the biggest growth in desktop solutions and that is not just a PC but also appliance-based solutions that you put on the desktop - everything from a videophone to a bigger PC screen. When people have it on their desktop they use it in ad-hoc way, not just for scheduled meetings - and instead of using just the phone to communicate, they use the videophone, either on the PC or a separate solution that is used with the phone.

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