FVC.com Softens Path to Improved Videoconferencing

PARIS (03/16/2000) - Broadband videoconferencing company Fvc.com hopes to cut the cost of videoconferencing for broadband network users through distribution of a high-resolution software tool developed by France Télécom SA which, the companies claim, can replace hardware equivalents at a fraction of the cost.

The software is designed to work with a video camera plugged into a PC's USB (universal serial bus) port. Fvc.com will sell the software, which it has licensed from France Télécom, at "a dramatically lower cost than current hardware alternatives," the companies said today in a statement.

The software was created by France Télécom's research and development labs with the goal of developing a videoconferencing codec (coder-decoder) entirely in software, said Philippe Alezard, head of videoconferencing at France Télécom, today in a telephone interview. It would run comfortably on a PC with a 200MHz Pentium MMX processor, he said.

Fvc.com is free to distribute as many copies of the software over the Internet as it wishes, but financial details of the licensing arrangement cannot be revealed, Alezard said.

The software transmits images based on the Common Intermediate Format (CIF), a standard derived from that used for digital television transmissions. CIF images are one quarter the size of a digital TV screen, while a 4CIF image has the same resolution as digital TV. But the main factor affecting the demand placed on the network, Alezard said, is the number of images transmitted per second. To transmit 30 CIF images per second requires a bandwidth of around 300K-bps (bits per second), he said, "the equivalent of high-end videoconferencing hardware today."

The licensing agreement with Fvc.com is not exclusive, and France Télécom is also in negotiations to license the software to other companies in the U.S. and Asia, Alezard said, but he would mention no names.

The player is currently in beta testing, and is expected to be introduced in the second quarter of this year, according to the statement.

Fvc.com, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-567-7200 or on the web at http://www.fvc.com/. France Télécom, based in Paris, can be reached at +33-1-44-44-22-22 or on the Web at http://www.francetelecom.com/.

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