Volcano chaos spews profits for video conferencing market

Skype users made over 20 million minutes more video calls than normal following Eyjafjallajökull's eruption

Tags: IDC Middle East and AfricaPolycom IncorporationSkypeSkype TechnologiesUSAUnited Arab EmiratesUnited Kingdom
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Volcano chaos spews profits for video conferencing market Ash and smoke from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption left Europe a no-fly zone this week with airlines incurring huge losses. (Getty Images)
By  Vineetha Menon Published  April 22, 2010

While Eyjafjallajökull's eruption in Iceland ate into the pockets of the global aviation industry with millions of passengers left grounded for days, the video conferencing and telepresence market enjoyed a healthy boost.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the volcano crisis cost airlines around the world more than $1.7 billion in lost revenue by Tuesday - six days after the initial eruption. And while there are no estimates on exactly how the incident positively affected the video conferencing market, there's been an undeniable impact, with stranded passengers turning to the telecommunication technologies to conduct business and stay in touch with family and friends.

"Millions of air travellers have found themselves stranded this past week, including dozens of our own employees", commented Rouzbeh Pasha, head of Skype MEA. "Skype users made over 20 million minutes more video calls than normal in five days, roughly the same time it would take to make over 2000 trips to the moon, and back - or the same time as more than 2.5 million flights from London to New York," stated Pasha.

Video conferencing specialists Polycom have also seen use of their solutions hit a record high last week. One of their customers, Regus, which operates the largest global network of 2,500 public video conferencing rooms and telepresence suites, experienced an increase in usage of 108% in the United Kingdom and 18% across Europe.

K.S. Parag, managing director at FVC, regional distributor for Polycom, admits that while there has been a general lack of awareness about the business benefits of video conferencing here in the Middle East, the volcano crisis last week has turned that around.

"We have definitely seen an increase in people hiring video conferencing equipment so that they can use the technology, and a big surge in our existing customers using it more productively," Parag revealed.

The company presently has clients in the oil & gas and public sectors here in the region, and admits there's been a definite 'increase in interest' from other Middle Eastern companies keen to sign on since the incident, especially those that want to stay connected with the United States and Europe.

''The truth is that too many organisations still lack the correct business continuity planning for times when communication becomes more challenging, meaning customers and overall competitiveness suffers,'' said Mike Swade, VP EMEA at Polycom. ''The volcano and other recent incidents like H1N1 have been an eye opener to many organisations about the potential business impact that can be caused by external influences.''

And while precise numbers are yet to come in on exactly how the volcano chaos positively affected the market, research firm IDC had already predicted in March that worldwide enterprise videoconferencing revenues would reach over $2.7 million this year, with telepresence-only revenue crossing $1 million globally.

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