In the frame

With the video conferencing continuing to grow rapidly, CommsMEA looks at the key issue of interoperability

Tags: Frost and Sullivan Middle EastInternet ProtocolTandberg Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
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In the frame
By  Roger Field Published  June 20, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

While video conferencing technology has attracted much attention during the past couple of years, there has been less talk about interoperability between the main vendors' systems - a factor that could have important implications on the return on investment for end users. CommsMEA asks three industry experts about the interoperability issues that could be crucial to the long term health of the sector.

What are the main issues surrounding interoperability?
Aloush: One of the key things about video conferencing is it allows companies to connect to other organisations, partners, suppliers, customers and in many cases you have no control over what product these entities choose. You only have control over what you choose. This is where it becomes quite crucial to have interoperability because you want the investment that you have made to have value.

If you buy a GSM phone, you don't care which brand of phone you are making a call to, and the same applies to video conferencing. Because you are calling different entities and trying to communicate with different people you would want to ensure that you have the most interoperability between these devices, whether you are using desk top software, using a PC based client software or high end telepresence unit.

Saif: There is a constant and deliberate effort from the vendors to make their products interoperable for the IP based platforms as it makes a business case for them. While vendors try to standardise and make their product interoperable for the IP platform, there is much to be desired on the seamless integration or connectivity across the video conferencing space.

What are the main standards?
Saif:Till now the main standard in the video-conferencing industry is H320, H323 and H324 set up by International Telecommunication Union. We can expect a lot of development on the standardisation for video conferencing platforms on mobiles which is also propagated by ITU standard H324.

Aloush: There are two emerging standards in video, whether it is on the desktop up to telepresence. It is H323, which is basically the protocol that defines how you carry video over IP. There is also the H320 Protocol which defines how you carry video over ISDN, and both of these are ITU standards with many other protocols under them. There is also a Sipp standard that allows for flexibility and features.

Are Tandberg's and Polycom's systems standards based?
K.S. Parag: Polycom supports H323 and Sipp because we want to remain open in terms of how we can interoperate with any manufacturer out there, so we are looking at both. We are seeing more convergence with more adoption happening in Sipp than H323, but we have kept it agnostic and are able to support both protocols.

Communications where our systems speak to other vendors' products on standard algorithms are fine but I think where the interoperability has to go one step ahead would be where you have standards that have gone beyond standards.

Aloush: Tandberg has always believed that the way forward is standards based technology with full interoperability, regardless of what device you are talking to. Our complete range, from personal systems to telepresence, has the ability to interoperate with any standards based video conferencing system.

Will non-standards based products need to become standards based?
Saif: In future it would become necessary both from the compliance point of view and as a business case to make standardised products which can talk to each other. Currently, since the popularity of the products is with the enterprises hence there is sufficient space for the vendors to grow and meanwhile standards are also being evolved.

Aloush: Awareness is increasing and it is becoming quite a critical criteria to choose which products. As the tech becomes more mature, these standards will prevail.

Using non standards makes you have islands of communication, instead of having an integrated communication between all the devices.

The direction that every company is going to is convergence, and the only way that these different networks can converge is if they are interoperable.

The speakers

Munzer Aloush, country manager UAE and Oman, Tandberg.

Mohammad Saif, deputy director, consulting, information and communications technology practice, South Asia and Middle East, Frost & Sullivan.

K.S. Parag, managing director, FVC, a value added distributor that works in partnership with Polycom.

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