LAN-based videoconferencing now on GSA

Intelect Visual Communications Corp. announced this month that Klein Technologies Inc. would carry IVC's local-area network-based videoconferencing products on the General Services Administration schedule.

Many videoconferencing products are based on the H.320 protocol for transmitting data across high-bandwidth Integrated Services Digital Network lines. But IVC's LANscape is Internet Protocol-based, so it can run over local- and wide-area networks.

The major difference between LAN-based videoconferencing and H.320 products is the ability to use a different compression scheme for the video, said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, analyst at Dataquest, Middlesex, N.J.

LAN-based products use Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) compression, which makes it possible to push a lot of data across the network. Instead of transmitting 15 to 20 frames/sec, which looks somewhat jerky, LANscape transmits at 30 frames/sec, which is closer to full-motion video.

"In videoconferencing everyone says, 'We have full-motion picture,' and we are far from having full motion," Tratz-Ryan said. "Driving toward JPEG, and for that matter [Moving Pictures Experts Group], allows you to have full-broadcast video quality."

This often requires upgrading the entire network to Fast Ethernet, which can be costly, but "that makes a lot of sense if you...need high-quality video" for use in such applications as long-distance medicine or distance learning, where the quality of the picture can make a huge difference in the usefulness of the product, Tratz-Ryan said.

Paired with IVC's VuBridge gateway, which translates all LANscape packets to H.320 for remote users, LANscape allows transmission of all video and audio feeds both internally and externally throughout an organization.

"Their product compares to the most expensive thing offered by [videoconferencing product vendor] PictureTel [Corp.], which makes it very hard to compare it to anyone else's," said Marnie Turman, product specialist at KTI, Vienna, Va. "Especially since theirs is a desktop system and PictureTel's is a TV monitor."

LANscape includes a Microsoft Corp. Windows-like graphical user interface, individually controlled participation, IP multicast support for distribution of video feeds to multiple users and multipoint conferencing for connecting three or more users without a costly multipoint conferencing unit.

Each participant in a conference gets his own window, the size, quality and volume of which can be controlled individually.

LANscape 2.1 supports three windows. But Mary McNally, executive director of marketing at IVC, New York, said the program will support up to three video and four audio participants, and the volume controls for each window will be moved from the main control panel to the bottom of each window

The company said IVC has installed evaluation copies of LANscape at several federal agencies over the past few months, where it is being used for videoconferencing, video on demand and video broadcasting.

The Library of Congress' Information Technology Services/Technology Assessment group is testing LANscape— possibly for recommendation to other government agencies— for use in multiple-feed viewing, including taped, TV and live broadcast, ITS/TAS member Donald Hiller said.

General pricing for a stand-alone version of LANscape starts at $1,995, while pricing for the full system starts at $6,500.

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