Tas university moves to IP videoconferencing

The University of Tasmania is migrating its legacy ISDN videoconferencing system to IP enabling students to access lecture material from more remote locations, according to director of IT resources John Parry.

Some 13 facilities conduct more than 2300 hours of videoconferences for teaching and administration each year and the university is now a third of the way through the two- to three-year project.

“We had a bridge to connect multi-way conferences which was nearing the end of its life,” Parry said.

“IP integration was needed for interoperability and the opportunity to integrate videoconferencing with other forms of electronic delivery. This is in line with our strategy of offering course flexibility.”

Parry said cost was not a driver as the university runs its own ISDN network.

“The second stage will involve updating end points and removing the legacy ISDN,” he said.

“In the third stage we will move into rich media conferencing, for example, streaming services and integration with documents. This will eliminate the human resource side of teaching in terms of staff time.”

Another driver for the project is AARNet’s deployment of video over IP network.

“This gives us the opportunity to cost effectively interact with partners at other unis,” Parry said.

“We have started meeting virtually across 16 sites around Australia.”

The university has partnered with Vantage GVT and is looking at the company’s vMeeting product to integrate IP applications.

Vantage GVT’s CEO Mark Buckley said most of the complexity in videoconferencing is integrating ISDN and IP.

“Conferencing is [being done] in combination with the merger of IT and communications,” Buckley said.

“Vantage GVT takes away the issue of needing specialty conference people and gives power to the users.”

The local company specialises in converged data, audio and video applications for large enterprises which are “unique from a conferencing perspective” as they integrate with business processes and can be controlled via a Web interface.

“IP is a huge help as half of [conferencing] fees is capital and the rest is spent on operations budgets for telecommunications. IP can leverage existing bandwidth,” Buckley said. “We decided to create a single solution based on JavaScript and then re-wrote it in .Net.”

Buckley, who oversees a local research and development team of six, said that since the product is driven by customers there is no need for offshoring.

“Because we are doing R&D and not just development, by the time you write the [development] specs you can develop it yourself,” he said. “The product is evolving based on customer needs that we need to address and the development team works in customer sites to get real first impressions. This is hard to outsource.”

Buckley said the IP videoconferencing market is “very interesting” as the “juggernauts are coming”.

“There will be a big paradigm shift as telcos and IP integrators are looking for more value adds,” he said.

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