There's no such thing as a mobile videophone. But there will be ...

by Staff Writer | posted on 26 March 2002

One day, video-enabled 3G wireless phones will need to join in video-conferences - and Radvision thinks it will make the "gateway" product that everybody will use.

Radvision comes out of a voice-over-IP (VoIP) background, using Internet standards to transmit digitised multimedia - both voice and video. It has now announced that it is "in the final stages of development of the viaIP 3G-324M Gateway that will allow video-enabled 3G wireless phones to participate in videoconferences with IP-based videoconferencing systems."

The product will be available before July, the company hinted.

The pitch is firmly aimed at mobile phone operators, who are frantically scrabbling around for ways of improving data-based revenue. Whether phone users will see video as data, is another matter, of course. Typically, people perceive video as low-cost, compared to data, accustomed as they are to cheap TV. However, video-conferencing is perceived as a "business product" and is seen as carrying a premium.

The Gateway will also allow mobile video-phones to contact other resources on the IP network such as H.323 compliant multipoint conferencing bridges, gatekeepers, terminals and other gateways.

"Mobile Operators around the world are investing billions of dollars into next generation high speed 3G networks," said Jan Sythoff, Wireless Program Manager at Frost & Sullivan, quoted in Radvision's press announcement this week.

"For them to gain a return on investment and attract customers, applications are absolutely key," said Sythoff. "Such applications are particularly interesting for attracting high value business customers, from across different business sectors -a key target market for mobile operators. This is a unique proposition in the market, with huge potential - every 3G operator should be looking at video applications."

The 3G-324M Gateway will be available in Q2 of this year.

Comment by Guy Kewney: What will make this application attractive will not be the simple matter of whether it can carry video over a high-speed 3G, third generation phone link. That technical problem is a serious one, involving a lot of systems integration, and if Radvision does it properly, the achievement will be impressive.

The problem with video conferencing is, and always has been, more than setting up the links. It's the problem of managing the meeting that makes it expensive - with more than two users, it all too easily degenerates into a series of awkward interruptions. The reason video conferencing is expensive is nothing to do with the cost of transmitting data, but is due to the fact that it only works satisfactorily when there is a producer in charge of the meeting - and producers are not cheap people to hire.

The technical details are: the Radvision Gateway will support the 3G-324M specification from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a collaboration agreement that brings together a number of telecommunications standards bodies designed to define a set of globally applicable technical specifications and reports for a 3G system.

The Gateway will enable audio and video communications between 3G-324M mobile endpoints that connect through ISDN and H.323 endpoints that connect through packet-based networks. It is a compact PCI card that is part of the viaIP family of products. As part of Radvision's viaIP system, the Gateway is a scalable solution that can easily adapt to network requirements.

But it's the useability aspect that makes this more than a bit of hardware; and for that, we'll have to wait and see.

"Moving into the wireless arena is a natural progression for us," said Eli Doron, chief technology officer of Radvision. "As the technology for making voice, video and data communications truly ubiquitous, 3G opens up another long-term growth opportunity for our organisation."

His plan is that the Gateway should be sold to manufacturers of cellular network infrastructure equipment - to incorporate into their solutions for support of rich-media communications for cellular providers. What nobody knows is whether there will be a market for such solutions.

So far, the 3G-324M Gateway has been pre-sold to a leading telecommunications company in Asia for implementation in their 3G wireless solution. Connectivity for SIP endpoints is planned for a future version. It's a start.

For more info, visit Radvision's Web pages