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Cisco Home Telepresence Rumors Fuel Speculation, Doubt

October 4, 2010 | Chris Payatagool

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By Gabriel Perna via International Business Times

While Cisco has kept quiet, rumors about the company introducing a home-based telepresence system have run rampant.

A report from The Wall Street Journal said the company will introduce a home-based telepresence system at an event next Wednesday. The report says the system will cost approximately $600 and require a $30 monthly fee. A representative from Cisco declined to comment on the story.

The company already has a line of telepresence products for businesses. Most commonly, Cisco and other companies that sell telepresence products will sell telepresence rooms. These are rooms, at the cost of approximately $300,000, that are solely dedicated to face-to-face video conferencing and emulating the real experience. The companies also other smaller face-to-face videoconferencing monitors and calling systems.

The consumer product will differ from its enterprise predecessors. It will include a camera and a device that connects high-definition TVs to the internet. Whether or not the device will only feature end-to-end calling or multiple endpoints is not certain.

A few of Cisco's competitors in the industry are already speaking out about the Cisco's rumored product. Jeff Machtig, co-founder of telepresence product provider Digital Video Enterprises (DVE), says without scalable video coding (SVC) technology, Cisco would be putting out a more expensive, lower quality product.

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"For its telepresence products, Cisco uses an AVC codec, which requires a lot of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) backend equipment," Machtig said. "SVC codec is essentially a software codec. It doesn't require that MLPS connection. So it's cheaper and in my opinion better quality. In the next couple of years it will be ubiquitous."

He says Cisco has already lost large contracts because of AVC codecs. "It might cost $50 million in some cases to get that AVC technology because of the backend equipment. Cisco can't do anything about it. Right now, they are giving stuff away," he said. Machtig says DVE already has a home-based telepresence product in the market based on the SVC technology.  

The company behind the SVC codec is Hackensack, N.J.-based Vidyo. Marty Hollander, Vidyo's vice president of marketing, said based on his assumptions for Cisco's home-based telepresence product, it won't able to deal with the certain bandwidth issues that will come with a home-based telepresence product.

"In the enterprise world, companies who have invested in expensive telepresence rooms are going to spend the money to get the necessary bandwidth to connect. In the consumer world, the amount of bandwidth available varies from situation to situation, depending on your network and how many people are on it at that time." Hollander said.

With Vidyo's SVC technology, Hollander said it is able to adapt to the amount of bandwidth available. "We dynamically adapt how much of a video stream you receive on your side based on the resolution of window and the bandwidth available to receive the stream," he said.

If there isn't enough bandwidth to produce HD video, Vidyo enables a process called, "graceful degradation." This allows the video to be seen at a lesser quality. Hollander says a lack of flexibility for a home-based telepresence product becomes even more glaring when it multipoint calling is taken into account.

"If it's point-to-point calling, just me and you, then they can minimize the problem. If you're talking about multipoint, they will have to solve that bandwidth problem. I'm not saying they haven't, but they would have to," Hollander said. [End Article]

For More Information on Home Telepresence
For more on the market and applications for Home Telepresence, please see our review of the home telepresence solutions from CES:

Home Telepresence/Videoconferencing at CES - The Battle for the Living Room

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