Author: Yogi Schulz

Flying isn’t what is used to be.  Check-in times have grown longer due to the additional security screening that has become commonplace.  On the eastern half of North America, the likelihood of delay has increased markedly due to congestion and weather related disruption.  You can’t even complain about the airline food anymore because, on many flights, there isn’t any.

A growing number of organizations are using videoconferencing as an effective alternative for reducing air travel cost and wasted time.


In the experience of Ms. MariAnna Torok of Insignia Corporation, “the use of videoconferencing fluctuates considerably from month to month for no particular reason.  The terrorist attack of 11 September 2001, for example, sparked a large increase in the use of videoconferencing that tapered off within a few months”.

Mr. Bob Walker, a Senior Account Manager with ADCOM Videoconferencing, sees growth but also constraints due to a lack of network availability and affordability.  Mr. Walker expects that the “Alberta SuperNet will go a long way to eliminating these barriers to growth”.


Mr. Matthew Pratt, the Regional Sales Manager for Canadian Communication Products Inc., a PolyCom dealer, points out that “customers buy primarily for improved face-to-face communication.  If communication is in fact 70% non-verbal, then videoconferencing brings benefits that audioconferencing, letters or e-mail can not match”.

The marketplace offers a wide range of alternatives for videoconferencing.  Here’s an overview of alternatives.


Most organizations first try videoconferencing by renting facilities by the hour or day from providers such as Telus or ADCOM.  Many business centers that offer individual offices and shared facilities also offer videoconferencing in some of their meeting rooms.

The advantages of renting include no investment, no ongoing operating costs and no need for technical support.  The cost is approximately $150.00 per hour per location plus the cost of 6 concurrent long distance telephone calls between the locations to carry the video and audio transmission.

Dedicated Facilities

Many organizations find their initial experience positive and then graduate to buying their own equipment.  The dominant suppliers are PolyCom and Tandberg.  The components of a videoconferencing system are the camera, monitor, electronics, remote control and microphone.

Prices start at CDN $6,000 per location for a basic system that supports only two locations and delivers a picture that will be jerky occasionally because only 1 ISDN telephone line is in use.  For CDN $15,000 per location, a system can support up to 3 other locations using 3 ISDN lines for a smooth picture.

In addition to hardware, some organizations spend money to build rooms that are specifically designed to enhance the videoconferencing experience.  Such rooms will have brighter lighting to produce a better camera picture, sound proofing to exclude noise from activity in adjacent areas and a specially shaped table to maximize the number of individuals who can participate and still be seen in the video image.

If the number of locations participating in a videoconference exceeds three, then more sophisticated bridging facilities are required to manage the network and switch the transmissions.  Organizations such as Telus can help make large-scale videoconferencing a success.  Mr. Stan Tamaki, the Videoconference Product Manager at Telus, offers the engineering know-how to install, configure and operate equipment for continent-wide or multi-continent videoconferences involving many locations and multiple technologies.


Videoconferencing technology is shifting from ISDN transmission that relies on the telephone system to IP transmission that relies on the Internet.  At present, over 80% of videoconferences rely on ISDN.  However, almost all new installations are based on IP.  Therefore the 20% market share held by IP today will grow significantly in the next few years.  The shift to IP is driven by the ubiquitous availability of the Internet and lower operating costs.

According to Bob Walker, a Senior Account Manager with ADCOM Videoconferencing, another trend is the “decreasing cost of more feature-rich videoconferencing equipment that is leading to increasing value to the customer”.

The shift to IP has also created the personal desktop videoconferencing market.  Here videoconferencing is achieved by adding a camera, a microphone and some software to a personal computer.  Expect to see more PC’s sprout cameras and microphones in the years ahead.


Many vendors offer hardware and software for desktop videoconferencing.  One widely distributed product is NetMeeting from Microsoft.  There is a direct link between price and capability.  Cheaper cameras tend to deliver fuzzier or darker images.  Cheaper software often delivers jerkier motion at the receiving end.  PolyCom and Tandberg, the leaders in ISDN videoconferencing, offer more expensive and more capable IP solutions.


Videoconferencing is proving more valuable because of technical advances and cost reductions.  If you interact with geographically distant organizations and find flying full of hassles, give videoconferencing another look.

If you’d like to receive a starter list of product and service vendors, please send me an e-mail.


ADCOM VideoconferencingPolyCom, PictureTel, Sony
936-6th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3T1
Phone: 403 262-4020
Bob Walker Senior Account Manager
Local 231
Denis Cantin

Canadian Communication ProductsPolycom WebOffice
Chris Mackie
Account Manager
Canadian Communication Products Inc.
1800, 250 – 6th Ave SW
Calgary, AB
T2P 0L6
E-mail sent:15 January 2003

Genesis CommunicationsTandberg Dealer
Dan Moran VP
403 287-8057
E-mail sent:15 January 2003
Global Crossing
Insignia Corporation Business center
MariAnna Torok
403 716-3636

Sharp’s AudioVisualPolyCom
1936 – 27 Avenue N.E.
Calgary, AB, Canada  T2E 7A5
Telephone: (403) 291-4330
E-mail sent:15 January 2003

iVisitiVisit Video Conferencing Software

TeVeoTeVeo VIDiO Suite
Microsoft – NetMeeting

E-mail sent:15 January 2003
Tandberg offers a dedicated personal videoconference device called the Tandberg 1000.  It plugs directly into the LAN in your home or office.

15 January 2003
1-866-799-7777 was cut off
15 January 2003
suggested contacts:
Stan Tamaki
604 663-7739
Videoconference Product Manager

Mandy Rukavina
Methods Coordinator

Charles West
Operator Services Product Specialist
E-mail sent:15 January 2003
Videoconferencing can’t replace the personal touch of being there and it can’t facilitate participation in social events.  However, for many business meetings, especially internal ones, videoconferencing can significantly reduce costs and time investments for all concerned.

Global Crossing Introduces Videoconferencing over IP: Smarter, Higher-Quality, More Cost-Efficient Videoconferencing


Canadian Communication ProductsCDN $15,000 for PolyCom ViewStation electronics, camera, monitor, remote control, microphone supports up to 3 other locations. 384KB/sec. 3 ISDN lines; each has 2 phone numbers; smoother picture.

Prices generally flat over time; not decreasing.

CDN $ 6,000 10,000 if you only want to support a single other location and are willing to accept a jerkier picture.

Matthew Pratt, Regional Sales Manager
604 263-9399

Common benefits:
Customers typically initially bring up the reduced travel cost benefit.
Most customers buy because of the improved face-to-face communication.
Sharing information; bringing people from multiple locations together easily.

Some customer see the time out of office as a bigger issue than the travel cost.
If communication is in fact 70% non-verbal, then videoconferencing brings benefits that audioconferencing can not match.

WebOffice is a PolyCom software product that a customer hosts on their own server.
$4,000 for 5 seat license plus 11% per year.

Webex is a service.

PolyCom introduced mixed protocol dialing to support IP and ISDN in a single conference.

Today 20% IP and 80% ISDN.

PolyCom vs. Tandberg:
PolyCom offers a wide-ranging product line.
PolyCom has superior user interface.
PolyCom 58% Tandberg 20% Vtel, Sony,
PolyCom acquired PictureTel.
PolyCom, as market leaders, sets the pace and direction.
Telus uses PolyCom.

Voice and video bridging is a growing market.
Reservation, management, room booking, call handling.

Not many users of SmartBoard in conjunction with PolyCom videoconferencing.

Typically other uses emerge after installation.

Webcam 3 – 4 frames per second

Wireless not yet much of a factors.
Auxiliary camera use is decreasing in favour of Visual Concert FX allows display of a PC screen image to video monitors.