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3/28/2011
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Videoconferencing, Telepresence Spending To Double By 2015

Cisco-Tandberg, Avaya, Lifesize, and Polycom are focusing on conference room systems, projected as the area of greatest growth, according to Infonetics.

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Enterprises will spend $5 billion on videoconferencing and telepresence solutions in 2015, Infonetics predicted in a study released Monday.

Last year, revenue for these technologies grew 18%, reaching $2.2 billion worldwide, the research firm said. As businesses around the globe continue to seek out new ways of cost-effectively and efficiently communicating, their spending on videoconferencing and telepresence is expected to increase, Infonetics said.

"Communicating via video continues to be one of the top trends in telecom, as evidenced by strong growth in the enterprise video market. Businesses worldwide are looking for richer means of communications with their employees, partners, and customers, and enterprise videoconferencing and telepresence solutions are a natural fit," Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise video at Infonetics, said in a statement. "The biggest winners in the enterprise communications market will be those who offer solutions that are multi-modal, visual -- e.g., video-based -- and support the collaboration requirements of globally distributed organizations."

Enterprises are adopting videoconferencing to address visually-intensive tasks, as well as more esoteric issues, Machowinski said in an interview.

"You know what they say about pictures and what they're worth: If you're trying to troubleshoot something, instead of having someone try and describe the problem, if you can see the problem you can resolve it much faster," he said. "Some organizations are highly virtualized where people may rarely, if ever, meet in person. If you enable video communications, you make it easier for these folks to have a workplace culture. People need to be comfortable with each other to have a strong team."

Unlike sales of PBX technologies, which dropped about 20% during the recession, videoconferencing product sales remained steady in 2009, Machowinski said.

"Videoconferencing was pretty resilient. I think that's pretty telling. Vendors at the time were saying, 'Hey, that's a way you can reduce travel cost.' I don't know how much of a factor it is, but I'm pretty sure it played a role at doing pretty well in the recession," he said. "As economy improves, will companies continue to scrutinize their travel budgets? People will continue to travel, but they can also continue to use this to raise their productivity levels."

Businesses increasingly are investing in the infrastructure required to support bandwidth-hungry services such as videoconferencing, according to ABI Research. Fiber broadband -- often used for applications such as videoconferencing and healthcare -- is the fastest-growing broadband platform, said ABI Research's Broadband Subscribers Market Data report, released last week.

On March 23, for example, Black Diamond Video released a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant high-definition videoconferencing system designed for integration within its Integrated Digital Surgical Suite or as a standalone videoconferencing system for commercial, business, or military organizations. The Sapphire-QHD1 includes bi-directional HD video and audio conferencing, HD video recording, and HD image capture, according to the developer.

"HD audio and video conferences can be initiated and accepted with the push of a few buttons from a business conference room," said Ed Priest, founder and CEO of Black Diamond Video, in a statement.

In fact, although some vendors are releasing desktop-based videoconferencing systems, most revenue growth will occur in multi-purpose room systems, according to Infonetics. Conference room systems, typically more expensive than single-user setups, are available from many vendors such as Avaya, Cisco-Tandberg, Lifesize, and Polycom.

Videoconferencing vendors are differentiating their products through price, software, and services such as the cloud.

On March 23, Polycom acquired Accordent, a developer of presentation and webcasting management software for the enterprise, for $50 million. Polycom said it will use Accordent's software to enhance its videoconferencing products.

For its part, cloud-based videoconferencing provider Nefsis on March 24 unveiled real-time routing tables and geo-location to reduce roundtrip latency sometimes associated with videoconferencing and real-time sharing via the Internet. By applying its proximity heuristics, Nefsis allocates resources in real-time, as close to meeting participants as possible, allowing the company to virtualize each conference at the best location, according to Nefsis.

"The distributed nature of cloud computing brings automated load balancing, failover, and scalability to a product category -- videoconferencing infrastructure -- that has historically required high investment for a single point of failure and only a few ports for expansion. In other words, cloud computing is more cost effective and easier to expand, and you get some resiliency to boot," Allen Drennan, Nefsis chief technology officer, in a statement.

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