VoIP provider Telesphere announces on-demand videoconferencing

Phoenix, Arizona-based Telesphere has been selling IP-based voice services for more than a decade. In recent years, the company has expanded its operation to take in all the lower 48 states—as well as adding call center and call recording services to its roster of offerings.

This week, Telesphere announced the addition of on-demand videoconferencing services under the VideoConnect brand.

Several factors set VideoConnect apart from many other hosted video solutions, according to the company.

“In the past, people looked at videoconferencing and video services in general as a hardware-centric product,” CEO Clark Peterson told Enterprise VoIPplanet in a recent briefing.

“If you wanted videoconferencing, you bought videophones and enough bandwidth to make that work. Now video is becoming a service, and the focus now is on video services across all devices—whether they be landline devices, or wireless devices, or your PC with a Webcam,” he said.

“To me, that’s the exciting thing: It’s device agnostic, it’s an all-IP world where we can now bridge people together across diverse devices. Even a quarter-million-dollar telepresence room can be one of the endpoints that come on the bridge,” Peterson emphasized.

Moreover, VideoConnect supports true high-definition imaging up to 1080p (video lines per inch), depending on the capabilities of individual devices.

“Video to the desktop has been around for a while now,” commented Telesphere CTO Sanjay Srinivisan. “Because of the limited quality, the experience was found wanting, and people didn’t take to it much. We’ll be supporting HD video to the desktop, as well as to the videophones and other devices that are out there.”

“Our belief is that change in experience is going to make that adoption strong,” Srinivisan concluded.

One of the hallmarks of earlier videoconferencing systems was operational complexity. In many instances, especially with full-blown telepresence systems, a technician was required to set up calls. Even with desktop videophone devices, users needed to maintain separate audio and videophone numbers—and keep track of audio and video numbers for those with whom they communicated.

Not so with Video Connect. “Our goal is to make it just as easy as audio is today,” Srinivisan said. “You don’t have to be an expert to initiate a videoconference, or to participate in one.”

This is due in part to a “highly intuitive” user interface, in part to smart network technology. “You don’t have to know whether to call their video number or audio number; it’s just the one number,” Srinivisan said.

This is because when employees place a call from a videophone or a webcam-equipped PC using a softclient, Telesphere’s infrastructure detects whether the called party also is video-enabled and, if so, automatically sets up a one-on-one video call.

Incidentally, one-on-one VideoConnect calls are free, and within a company they can be initiated by four-digit extension dialing.

For larger conferences, VideoConnect provides a virtual conference room (as many as you want or need). A given session can accommodate as many as 12 “legs” (distinct locations or devices).

Operation is similar to that of the familiar audio conference bridges of today: VideoConnect invitees are provided with a passcode, greeted by a video attendant and placed in a waiting area until the meeting moderator arrives. Telesphere characterizes this feature as “a highly professional, concierge-level user experience.”

Pricing for multi-party conferences are based on connection minutes and the number of ports employed. In any case, since hosted communications solutions are inherently free of capital expenditure—with the exception of endpoints, which may be inexpensive soft clients or tablets—the VideoConnect service is low in cost compared to legacy on-premise solutions.

“With video services added to the other cloud services that Telesphere offers, it starts to capture the power of the cloud,” Peterson said in summing up. “They’re now all in the cloud and now it’s easier to tie them all together to make it very user-friendly for the customers,” he concluded.

The basic VideoConnect service is available to Telesphere customers immediately, but new rollout phases will follow, Peterson promised. So, stay tuned.

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