What is the best way to connect videoconferencing?

The best way to connect videoconferencing is the way most everyone who uses video conferencing connects – through the ITU standards. The ITU is the International Telecommunications Union based in Geneva, Switzerland.  Its membership includes 192 member states and more than 700 Sector members and associates.  The ITU is a 145 year institution.  This is what they do:

  • Agency for information and communication technology issues
  • Coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum
  • Promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits
  • Works to improve telecommunication infrastructure
  • Fosters seamless interconnection of communications systems
  • Develop and establish worldwide communication standards (for more info: www.itu.int)


The first reliable and subsequently ubiquitous ITU standard for video conferencing was H.320 used through ISDN/BRI circuits. This became the most common way to video conference in the mid to late 90’s.  Although the connection for video conferencing was reliable on H.320 there were big drawbacks.  The disadvantages with the H.320 standard are: high long distance charges; high international tariff fees; difficulty with international conferences without an international long distance carrier; and very high bandwidth cost.  When you dialed using H.320 you dialed a standard ten digit phone number that would cascade to a series of up to (8) ten digit phone numbers automatically.  These calls went though the local phone company’s central office and you were billed accordingly for the circuits and the long distance.  Long distance alone on a video call could easily exceed $70.00 per hour.  Needless to say there was an economic incentive towards developing an IP, (Internet protocol), standard.

The next ITU standard is H.323.  This is an IP, (internet protocol,) standard whereby almost 90% of the video conferencing world uses this standard today.  The H.323 standard eliminates just about all of the problems experienced with H.320 on ISDN/BRI circuits.   No more long distance charges; Seamless international calls with no International long distance carriers; and much lower cost of bandwidth. The H.323 works seamlessly through a variety of networks including, T-1, DSL, Cable, wireless, etc.  The most likely standard to replace H.323 will be SIP, (session initiation protocol).  Currently this is the standard for VoIP, (Voice over IP).  This is a more open standard than H.323 and will allow more interoperability among manufacturer end points.  This big disadvantage — SIP is not ubiquitous for video conferencing yet.  Most new video conferencing systems accommodate both H.323 and SIP.

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