WebEx conferencing service adds features

Customers of the WebEx Web conferencing service soon will be able to conduct voice-data collaboration calls with less confusion about who's talking.

The company has started swapping out its TDM voice infrastructure and replacing it with IP, making it possible to blend voice and data on its network. One immediate benefit will be that when a person speaks during a conference, the person's name will be highlighted on the computer screens of participants. Until now, talkers had to identify themselves.

The service will also be able to send screen pops that notify customers when their WebEx conferences are about to start.

WebEx enables audio and Web conferencing, with the data portion of the conferences traveling over the Internet and the voice component being handled by the public phone network.

The company has started converting its network, but it will take until June to move all its 14,000 customers over to the new platform, says Shawn Farshchi, WebEx Communications' CIO. WebEx says it will add a new feature each quarter after it has all its customers moved to the VoIP service.

The new IP platform is based on Sonus equipment.

Additional benefits include the ability to host larger conferences, Farshchi says. With the TDM technology, WebEx could pull together 125 concurrent callers on a single audio call; with IP, that number jumps to 500, Farshchi says.

It will also be possible to conduct global audioconferences with each participant making a local phone call to an ISP, or using a dedicated Internet connection, to participate, he says. With TDM technology, users have to dial long distance to a conference bridge.

As a result, the cost of delivering these services will drop 30 percent, Farshchi says.

Those users without Internet access can also dial directly to WebEx's network over the public phone network and be conferenced together with those connecting via VoIP and the Internet, he says. This creates hybrid conferences that TDM cannot support, Farshchi says.

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