Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ubiquitous Visual Communications at PTC 2012

The 34th PTC Conference (tagline "Harnessing Disruption: Global, Mobile, Social, Local") gathered about 1400 attendees from the service provider community. As expected, about half of the participants were from the USA while the other half was split among Japan, Canada, China, Australia, Singapore, etc. Over the years, I have developed deep expertise in the North American and European markets (including Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation) but travelling throughout the Asia-Pacific region has always been challenging due to its size and population distribution. PTC is therefore a great opportunity to reach service providers from the Asia-Pacific region without actually travelling to their respective countries, and the conference helps me to get global perspective on the communications market. I enjoy organizing breakout sessions at PTC and inviting high-caliber speakers to discuss hot industry topics. While my PTC 2011 session was dedicated to Unified Communications Services, this year's topic was (Video) Interoperability, Interconnection, and Sky-Rocketing Global Utility.

Telepresence Systems are not only becoming more naturally realistic, they are also becoming more inter-operable with both telepresence solutions from disparate manufacturers and other visual collaboration solutions. At the same time telepresence and video networks (enterprise and carrier overlay / converged WAN) with QoS, low-latency, and high speeds are connecting at telepresence and video exchanges which are handling IP address conflicts, security, and disparate QoS tags allowing organizations to connect with partners, vendors, and customers. This growing interoperability and inter-connection along with directories, publicly available telepresence, and improved collaborative tools is sending utility, what you can do and who you can reach, sky-rocketing! The session was prominently featured on the PTC web site and now includes the slides from the three presentations.

The session included three speakers: Damian McCabe, David Gilbert, and me. Damian McCabe is Business Head and General Manager at Bharti airtel US Global Data Business. In this role, he oversees the US business for Bharti airtel including the executive management of Wholesale, Channel, Enterprise, supplier and partner accounts. Damien talked about airtel's involvement in the Open Visual Communication Consortium (OVCC), and focused on business model and roadmap. He highlighted the importance of carrier interconnects that are being implemented right now.

The OVCC interconnects are the first time large service providers (carriers) connect their IP networks to exchange real-time traffic (video calls). It took me some time to understand the revolutionary nature of the carrier interconnects for video, since I am used to IP interconnectivity across enterprises – admittedly through firewalls, session border controllers, etc. In carrier networks, however, TDM interconnects are still used for exchanging voice calls across networks, and IP interconnects are very new.

Damian's presentation generated questions from other service providers that consider joining OVCC or are in the process of joining OVCC.

Dave Gilbert is CEO and Founder of SimpleSignal. His vision to create a disruptive communications service provider attracted a team of telecom industry veterans to develop and engineer one of the first Cloud Communications platforms designed from the ground up specifically for SMB's. Dave's presentation "Bringing Telepresence to Any Mobile Device" focused on service providers' evolution from voice to video services ("Video is the new voice"), and the increasing role of mobile devices in voice and visual communications. Dave had a live demo of high-quality video call between a soft client on an iPad tablet connected over the 3G network to an HD video system at SimpleSignal's office. Although the wireless network at PTC was overloaded, the demonstration worked very well, and the audio-video quality was excellent.

My presentation was about market trends, interoperability, and standardization. In terms of market trends, I focused on the increased use of video by information workers, increasing number of video clients, and the increased share of multi-codec systems. The increasing demand for hosted and managed services (poised to become $6.2B market in 2014, based on Wainhouse Research) creates a lot of new opportunities for service providers.

In the interoperability area, the biggest advances in 2011 were around connecting multi-codec systems, and I covered interoperability scenarios including SIP, H.323, and TIP protocols, point-to-point and multipoint configurations. I highlighted the challenges around connecting systems with different number of screens, different screen aspect ratios, and different audio capabilities (that is, different number of mono or stereo channels). I concluded my part with an update from the standardization bodies (ITU-T, IETF) and interoperability organizations (IMTC, UCIF, OVCC).

In summation, PTC 2012 was a great opportunity to meet service providers from North America and Asia-Pacific. The sessions were generous both in terms of length and in terms of breaks between sessions; that allowed for discussions to continue after the official part was completed. The idea of offering ubiquitous visual communication, that is, making video as simple and reliable as a voice call, is catching on, and increasing number of service providers have joined or are about to join OVCC to work together towards "Interoperability, Interconnection, and Sky-Rocketing Global Utility".

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