August 4, 2006
Israeli developer Radvision has announced an advanced 3G system that, in theory, will allow users to make video calls for the same cost as an ordinary call. The firm is taking a different view on advanced 3G applications which are usually focused on the prospects for packet-switched data services and the mobile internet. It aims to deliver complex video services using the circuit-switched video capability originally intended for video calls.
The key to this is a gateway which interconnects the carrier’s circuit-switched domain with hosts on the internet. For example, home PCs or servers in enterprise data centres -and converts the 324M video used for UMTS video calls to common standards. “Today, there is no traffic and this is a way of creating traffic,” says Alon Barnea, ex-VP of roaming specialists Starhome and now Radvision’s general manager for mobility.
Barnea argues that some of the disadvantages of the circuit-switched video calling system can be features rather than bugs. For example, hosts are identified by traditional e164 telephone numbers rather than URLs, which he argues are more convenient for many users. “It’s the nature of a mobile phone,” he says, “…this is a natural access method.” CS video also enjoys guaranteed QoS, being carried in an allocated 64Kbits/s bi-directional slot like a voice call, which should help to deliver live services well.
Live video is especially important because the main applications Radvision envisages involve lots of interaction. Barnea cites “large call centres” as a target market – for example, a technical support helpdesk could show video instructions to the user, or permit the user to show the helpdesk their problem in real time.
But is this really a step backward?
In order to interconnect with PCs, and even more so to make enterprise applications work with mobiles, everything has to be translated into IP – so why not go the whole hog and start with TCP/IP data and web services protocols? This would offer greater simplicity and versatility, and URLs are closer to human language than telephone numbers.
Barnea agrees that the world is evolving in this direction, but argues that Radvision’s software permits a start to be made now. “The technology is actually there – people need to stop looking for the killer app and create greater variety,” he said.
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