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October 15, 2007

Nortel: HD Telepresence Enables 'Real' Videoconferencing, Helps Companies Cut Costs



By Mae Kowalke
TMCnet Associate Editor


Adoption of high-definition telepresence solutions is gaining momentum as more and more business discover the benefits of the technology. Using HD telepresence, companies can reduce their travel budgets and boost productivity of the workforce and

make collaboration among employees easier.
 
To learn more about recent advances in HD telepresence technology, and how it’s being used in the business market, TMCnet asked Dietmar Wendt, president at Nortel’s (News - Alert) global services division, to share some perspective. Wendt explained why videoconferencing is grabbing the attention of business executives as they look for a way to work smarter.
 
TMCnet: What is HD telepresence and why is it important to businesses?
 
DW: The Human Productivity Lab (www.humanproductivitylab.com) defines telepresence as “the science and art of creating visual conferencing environments that address the human factors of participants and duplicate, as closely as possible, an in-person experience. Telepresence (News - Alert) greatly improves end-user acceptance, which dramatically increases usage and substantially improves demand, return on investment and customer satisfaction.”
 
HD telepresence combines superb sound and video quality with ergonomically designed rooms, furniture and other environmental factors to create an immersive experience that makes meeting participants in multiple geographic locations feel as if they are all in the same conference room. Telepresence can help companies increase business agility and communications effectiveness, reduce travel and operating costs, and reduce carbon emissions. IDC (News - Alert) projects a $1.2 billion global market for telepresence by 2011.
 
TMCnet: When did Nortel first begin offering telepresence solutions, and how has the company’s telepresence portfolio changed since then?
 
DW: The essence of telepresence is enabling effective communications and enabling presence without having to travel. Nortel has offered video conferencing solutions since IP-based switching became the mainstream in the early 1990s. As lower-cost IP networks have made higher bandwidth more readily available, demand for HD videoconferencing and telepresence has risen to a six-figure market. Nortel formally entered the market for HD video conferencing and telepresence with the announcement of its Multimedia Services portfolio and resale relationship with Polycom (News - Alert) in May 2007.
 
TMCnet: Why is it that, until recently, corporate executives were not that keen on adopting video conferencing solutions?
 
DW: Video conferencing technology has traditionally been perceived as less than easy to use and not of sufficiently high voice or video quality to approach the effectiveness of face-to-face communications. Systems haven't been intuitive to use. Users often had to find an instruction manual, find and figure out how to use a remote control, manually pan a camera to the person speaking, constantly move desktop microphones from one location to another to ensure that all speakers were heard, focus their attention on a camera and monitor in front of the room rather than the person speaking at any given time, and so on.
 
In effect, the videoconferencing experience has not been real enough to provide the same convenience and effectiveness of actual presence. But now, HD video and audio quality can make users at multiple locations feel like they are in the same room. Decreasing network bandwidth costs are making the return on investment in telepresence more and more attractive versus travel, which is also growing less attractive due to security and environmental concerns. And managed HD video conferencing and telepresence services remove much of the operating and maintenance complexity.
 
TMCnet:What are some of Nortel’s most recently formed or most noteworthy HD telepresence partnerships?
 
DW: Nortel has a resale and services relationship with Polycom, and expects to announce other partnerships in this space in the near future.  
 
TMCnet: How do Nortel’s HD telepresence solutions help businesses be more efficient and more competitive?
 
DW: Documented case studies have shown that use of managed HD videoconferencing and telepresence can improve P&L by as much as 20 percent. The ability to meet and communicate via telepresence versus travel can help businesses be more agile, make decisions more rapidly, and generate revenue more quickly.
 
TMCnet: What are some of the ways telepresence is changing the way enterprises do business?
 
DW: Geographically dispersed organizations can be more connected and can collaborate more effectively, improving business performance as well as employee satisfaction. Travel can be reduced, resulting in cost savings as well as reduced environmental impact. Even customer, supplier and partner collaboration can be improved by extending telepresence use beyond just employees.
 
TMCnet: Can you provide an example or two of Nortel clients that used telepresence in a particularly innovative way?
 
DW: Though the benefits of HD video conferencing and telepresence are clear, the investment can be significant, resulting in a long sales cycle. Nortel's first customers are still in the early stages of implementation and use and have not yet been publicly announced. But innovative uses of telepresence could include medical consultations, hotel and convention center business conferencing services, and remote repair and maintenance assistance for offshore oil rigs.
 
TMCnet: In what ways are telepresence solutions part of the “green technology” movement?
 
DW: Greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide pose a serious threat to our global climate. Telepresence can reduce these emissions by cutting down on the need for travel. For example, we estimate that that using telepresence for weekly cabinet meetings rather than travel for executives at three locations could reduce Nortel's annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than four million tons.
 
TMCnet: What else should people know about Nortel’s HD telepresence initiatives?
 
DW: Nortel offers complete, turnkey managed HD video conferencing and telepresence services based on Polycom's Real Presence Experience (RPX) and other Polycom video conferencing systems. These services are part of Nortel's Multimedia Services portfolio, which also includes integrated audio conferencing, webcasting and web collaboration services. All of these services can be provided to customers globally with 24/7 support and reliability.
 

To learn even more about telepresence, check TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents free to registered users.

 
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.

 

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