Enterprise use of real-time videoconferencing is on the verge of explosion. A short but critical list of demand and supply side factors have converged to fuel unprecedented rates of adoption of a wide spectrum of technologies in this sector. This includes:
- Demographic, public safety and environmental factors
- The growing availability and use of broadband and Internet technologies
- Video-friendly consumer electronics and applications
- The availability of a new generation of high-quality, powerful, flexible and inexpensive technology running across high and low quality IP networks
Videoconferencing based on recent- and current-generation technology — from high end, purpose-built telepresence rooms to new, room-based systems and desktop/PC- based systems — is light years ahead of the kind deployed ten, five or even three years ago. Even so, a rosy future for the industry is not necessarily assured. Several critical factors retard growth; some pose significant barriers over our entire five-year planning horizon. The most significant of these is lack of complete interoperability of current- generation videoconferencing and related technologies (vs. currently available technologies). This is caused in part by vendor technology alignment along one of two camps:
- Vendors that heavily rely on transcoding technology (e.g., specialized videoconferencing hardware)
- Software vendors that use non-transcoding techniques and rely instead on multipurpose, current-generation PCs.
Another major hurdle to adoption is the lack of widespread, direct carriers: carrier enterprise-class WAN interoperability. Other challenges include the continuing debate over net neutrality, incomplete integration with UC technology, organizational and cultural factors, industry consolidation and some specific IT-related challenges.
Carriers, videoconferencing vendors, videoconferencing exchanges and managed services specialists will be able to capitalize on latent demand if they proactively address these important industry challenges, most notably, inter-vendor and inter- carrier interoperability. But such objectives aren’t easily or quickly achieved.
In the absence of tight interoperability specifications for current-generation technologies, managed service providers and video exchanges play particularly significant roles in enabling more companies to engage in videoconferences with other companies — essentially serving to interconnect videoconferencing “islands.” Their near-term future is very bright. In the mid- to long-term, the development of hybrid solutions that employ aspects of transcoding and adaptive coding technologies, followed by interoperable HVEC-based systems, will continue to advance innovation and propel market adoption.