- Cisco rallied big global service providers to marry platform, service wrap, network, and business processes for immersive video.
- If it succeeds, Polycom-founded OVCC could let providers connect once to work with many partnersRoom-based, immersive video conferencing has come a long way to mainstream enterprise use in just a few short years. There are several large vendors that put their muscle behind immersive video adoption. However, Cisco deserves credit as the juggernaut pushing this part of the industry forward. Cisco TelePresence System (CTS) endpoints and the Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch (CTMS) bridging platform are strong products, but the real revolution was Cisco’s ability to get carriers on board with the idea of marrying the platform, service wrap and network with providers’ business processes.
Until Cisco introduced its approach, global telecom carriers could help with the sale and installation of video hardware, and they might also manage video bridges for their clients. Now, the industry is accustomed to operating video exchanges, where customers of one carrier can arrange and conduct sessions with other companies on the same exchange, as well as turnkey “as-a-service” options that wrap CPE financing, network connectivity, installation, and platform/service management, including hardware and service support, all in one comprehensive service contract. Just as important, in 2011, Cisco began providing open interfaces for third-party vendors to plug into its once-proprietary video systems, and it managed to get large global carriers to open up their video exchanges to each other. A CTS endpoint on BT’s video service can, for example, initiate a call to a CTS endpoint on AT&T’s video service, and thanks to their service arrangement, it all works.
Just because inter-carrier immersive video calls can work does not mean making them happen is easy. Under the model used with Cisco gear, large carriers negotiate individual agreements to connect to each other’s customer endpoints. Enterprise IT is reluctant to list endpoints in a public directory that will be widely shared; calling between endpoints is a manual process, which cannot be set up through regular Web scheduling tools; and of course, calling across carriers costs extra. These are all reasons why inter-carrier calling did not exactly take off through 2011.
Polycom was looking to resolve the need for point-to-point connections between each carrier’s immersive video networks, via its “Open Visual Communications Consortium” (OVCC) announced in 2011. If the OVCC succeeds, service providers would no longer need to build a dedicated connection for every partnership: Their telepresence networks would already be hooked into the OVCC’s exchange. Once the providers negotiate terms of service between each other, they are ready to roll. Polycom OVCC has named about 20 of its members, but its vision of OVCC is to connect hundreds of service providers worldwide. Together with promises to support a full range of video platforms and the ease of joining for interested participants, this could be a catalyst to boost use of inter-carrier immersive video, and also give smaller video players without a lot of network resources an easier option to connect with other providers directly.