Polycom, Service Providers To Drive Open Standards For Videoconferencing


The idea, according to Polycom, is that by getting competing service providers to agree on a global, standards-based, multi-vendor visual communication exchange, adoption of video among business users will happen faster. All boats will rise in the tide, in other words, because no one service provider can cover all potential business customers by itself, and service providers won't need peering agreements to guarantee interoperability.

The group, known as the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) and officially unveiled Wednesday, has 14 service provider members at launch, including AT&T, Airtel, BCS Global, BT Conferencing, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, Global Crossing, Glowpoint, iFormata Communications, Masergy, Orange Business Services, PCCW Global, Telefonica, Telstra and Verizon.

Several industry groups and consortiums address the topic already, but according to Polycom, the OVCC represents the first time major service providers have come together to address interoperability for business-to-business video use.

"The best path forward seemed to be to get these large service providers working amongst themselves to provide more ubiquity around their video customers," said John Poole, senior director of business development for Polycom's Service Provider Group. "The net-net is that in order for the market to grow and get the adoption up, we have to move away from 'I have an iPhone, you have a BlackBerry and I can't get to you.'

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Polycom is the group's sponsor, and the groundwork for the OVCC was laid starting about a year ago, according to Poole.

On January 28, 2011, OVCC members made a multi-vendor, high-definition telepresence call to 18 different, standards-based systems across 12 different service provider networks to demonstrate the potential for interoperability, using Polycom's UC Intelligent Core platform.

The OVCC plans to open up to new members in the second half of 2011, and the OVCC service -- which will rely in part on the on Intelligent Core -- is planned for a 2012 launch.

"It means basically providing a baseline service that they all agree on," Poole explained. "It's a meeting bridge that would be federated amongst the other vendors -- a secure meeting place in the cloud that's a federation of all these environments."

The hope, said Poole, is that greater interoperability will expand business use of video, but also create opportunities for application development, and for channel partners, to sell services on top of video deployments knowing they won't have the hassles of interoperability.

As a third-party nonprofit with some administration costs, participation requires a kick-in from service provider members, Poole said. As the OVCC gets underway, it will create a governance board featuring members of each service provider represented, plus potentially other vendor representatives, he said, but carriers will be the focus.

"It's really set up for the providers of the service," Poole said. "They need to lead the negotiation in driving this."

The overall enterprise UC market, according to Forrester Research, is expected to grow from $3.75 billion in 2010 to $14.5 billion in 2015.