What are the reasonable expectations for videoconferencing?

We live in an age of increasing expectations and diminishing astonishment.  Look back at the very beginning phases of cellular communications and the mobile phone.  In the mid to late 80’s when the phone was installed in our car we expected seamless connections to every land line — Of course this didn’t happen. Cell towers were not ubiquitous at this point.  Back then when you signed up for service the provider gave you a map indicating the footprint of your coverage.  The race was on between cellular providers on who can get the most coverage the quickest and who can accommodate long distance more efficiently.  In any event we are happy because of the great possibility to connect from the car and save a lot of time.  Today cellular phones can connect anywhere easily with internet access to boot.

Video conferencing technology has a similar evolution.  Conference room end points were expensive, just like “cells phones in the car” were expensive.  Early in video conferencing, circa mid to late 90’s we expected seamless connection everywhere; however we only had one network option, the local phone company through an Integrated Services Digital Network, ISDN.   Major disadvantages with ISDN include: Expensive long distance charges; Difficulty conferencing internationally without and international LD carrier; ISDN bandwidth cost very high and finally high cost international tariffs.   Today the ISDN network is just about totally abandoned by video conferencing.  Video over IP allowed video conferencing to seamlessly connect over the Internet and on any VPN or company network at very little cost.  Video over IP makes video conferencing inexpensive to use and ubiquitous. Over time the technology finally meets our initial expectations.

The latest expectation is video conferencing through a mobile app.  Now we expect to seamless video conferencing through our iPhones, iPads and notebook computers.   Skype; Facetime; Tango; and the many other mobile video apps are driving new expectations.  These consumer video conferencing applications reveal a major flaw —   They operate in “proprietary conferencing silos.”   They only work within their own operating platform.   Would you buy a cell phone that only connected to those with the same cell phone model or worse with those only on the same cell phone network?  In business and in the enterprise, video conferencing operates on standards set by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU.  This means that no matter what equipment you purchase you will connect seamlessly period.  Mobile apps are another issue – Some manufactures are creating mobile apps that will connect to the standards based video conferencing others are developing bridge and gateway technology that will accommodate popular mobile apps like Skype.  In the end they will have to work within the ITU standards or they will evaporate as temporary technical solutions. (Refer to Standards based video conferencing document)

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