Videophone service coming to US for $30 a month

Private carrier with IP network to offer US$200 videophone next year

Cisco recently unveiled use of smaller videoconferencing units deployed by Magic Johnson Enterprises to keep employees nationally in touch with one another.

Khris Kendrick, director of business development at Grandstream, said that Grandstream is dominant in videophone sales. "Nobody supplies videophones at our quality and price," he said in an interview. The price of the GXV3000, which at US$219 is slightly higher than the GlobalLinx price of US$200, could be hundreds of dollars below that of competing desktop videophones. It runs on the H263 videoconferencing standard as well as Session Initiation Protocol. He said the video quality is very high, providing fluid motion at 30 frames per second.

Kendrick expects the videophone market to pick up in the economic downturn, allowing workers and families to replace travel with video calling. While a few of the telecom carriers are working with phones that are video-capable, "they are not yet accustomed to having pure IP video" run on their networks, he said.

The prime advantage of working in an IP network will be cost for many customers, because they won't be paying a toll cost for a long-distance call, the same way they benefit over a Skype-type voice call over the Internet, Kendrick said.

The Grandstream phones work over typical wired connections, although wireless capability is possible and will become more important, Kendrick and Machonkin said. Machonkin said the phones can already be combined with a wireless device to make them work over Wi-Fi, but predicted advancements to work with fast wireless networks such as WiMax or LTE. "You will see more advancements in this area in the very near future," Machonkin said.

Joslyn Faust, an analyst at Gartner, said GlobaLinx might be trying to get a foothold for a broader rollout of videophones in the US. "All the carriers are struggling to find services to build up revenues, and videoconferencing makes total sense, so it will be interesting to see who adopts it," she said in an interview.

The GlobaLinx phone at US$200 would be much cheaper than many versions of business-focused videophones. At that price, GlobaLinx might be best suited for consumers, she said, since business users often have a desk phone that sits next to a computer, which can be used for a desktop videoconference from a number of Web-based IP videoconferencing companies.

In general, however, Faust said videoconferencing over video phones hasn't caught on because of the price. In fact, she added, "there aren't a lot of reasons to do a videoconference for most businesses ... unless you are in an industry where it's beneficial to show something, such as with manufacturing or architecture."

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