This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2011 issue of NGN Magazine.
In my July article I talked about how mobile handsets were starting to support video capabilities. Well six months have gone by, and now we are facing the new year with video devices and communications services once again in the spotlight.
Fixed line broadband networks also are participating in the spotlight, with products such as the Cisco Umi and Logitech’s (News - Alert) Revue/TV Cam bundle. These HD prosumer video communication products integrate existing HDTVs with add-on boxes tied to high-speed broadband networks, creating so much realism that their developers insist users will be willing to spend several hundred dollars on them. In fact, there are monthly fees required from users of the Umi product. And, of course, you need the two communicating locations to have the equipment installed to get the highest quality video/audio from the experience.
The mobile video spotlight has been just as bright. Joining the Sprint EVO video calling camp is the recently introduced T-Mobile MyTouch. Both of these service providers have aligned themselves with the Qik (News - Alert) video application. This should allow users on either of these mobile networks to video call each other if they have a mobile handset that supports Qik’s downloadable software client. It will be interesting to see if AT&T (News - Alert) continues its reliance on the iPhone’s video calling capability with Apple’s FaceTime app, and if it expands this service to be used over its mobile network and not just Wi-Fi. This is expected by many to happen when the iPhone 5 is introduced next summer.
So with all these video-enabling products getting announced, will 2011 be the year for two-way video communications? Just to clarify, video communications is not the same as video streaming, which is characteristic of OTT video services. Video communications market acceptance is harder to predict, since it requires two compatible mobile handsets to operate, whereas OTT video is by definition one-way and only needs one handset connected to a video content source. In the two-way video communications case, the originating caller needs to know that the person he or she is calling can receive a video call. So the service providers (in North America at least) either need to create a video community (just like the IM vendors have) or rely on one that already exists. Sprint (News - Alert) and T-Mobile have attached to Qik, whereas AT&T and Apple have their own.
Creating these communities around mobile handset compatibility is the key to video calling taking off as has been predicted many times in the past.
Also having an impact on video communications success in 2011 is the state of the mobile network in a particular country or region. Not every region in the world has 3G+/4G mobile data networks to support the higher bandwidth necessary for video transmission. In fact, the BRIC countries, with the exception of Brazil, are just starting to roll out 3G. So, the push for video communications in these countries has been around 3G-324M video usage. In fact, because 3G-324M is the most efficient way to deliver video for either one-way or two-way services in a 3G network, this is the path that mobile operators are taking. And because these countries don’t have a high penetration of fixed line broadband, this could lead to wider usage of both video communications and streaming in these networks. 3G-324M also can more effectively address the handset compatibility issue encountered with the video community approach, since the handset manufacturers build 3G-324M compatibility into the phone with no other software required on the phone to enable video communications.
The video communications push will continue through 2011 even though the ubiquitous use of video for communications will be beyond 2011. The seeds are being planted with the technology finally here after all these years of service providers and vendors promising it. And even though the mobile networks are in different states of build out using different technology, service providers are poised to build a business model around video communications.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi