Videoconferences go wireless

Government employees on the move can now join a videoconference without a landline, thanks to Tandberg's Oct. 11 announcement of a standalone videoconferencing product capable of running on a wireless local-area network.

The Tandberg 1000 is a completely integrated system with an LCD screen and multiple network interfaces, including IP, Integrated Services Digital Network and now wireless LAN, said Pete Gaffney, vice president of federal sales.

"It's a small, self-contained unit, portable within an office," Gaffney said. "We've sold lots of 1000s to civilian and [Defense] agencies . The wireless piece is another emerging market, and Tandberg is leading the charge in technology into that area."

Wireless LANs provide all the functionality of wired LANs, without the physical constraints of the wire itself. Using radio frequency technology, wireless LANs receive data via the air. They are ideal for agencies trying to avoid the infrastructure and costs associated with a wired LAN or those requiring the flexibility to extend networks rapidly and cost-effectively, said Sean Lessman, director of technology alliances.

The Tandberg 1000 requires only a single power cable to operate and runs on a wireless LAN compatible with the IEEE 802.11b standard. In order for it to operate in a wireless LAN environment, all that is required is a PC card (PMCIA) that can be fitted into a slot on top of the unit, Lessman said.

The card interacts with wireless LAN access points that may be mounted anywhere as long as the desired coverage is obtained. Tandberg ensures a secure network connection with advanced encryption.

"That's a breakthrough in this kind of technology," said Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst for multimedia at Cahners In-Stat Group. "It's a very powerful model [because] one problem with videoconferencing has been that you have to be in a location wired up to support it, but with 802.11b and Tandberg's product, it drastically increases the number of places you can join a videoconference from."

Federal customers already using the 1000 include the departments of Energy, Treasury, Justice, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, the Navy, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Air Force, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and intelligence agencies.

Tandberg, which is based in Oslo, Norway, and has U.S. federal headquarters in Reston, Va., will demonstrate the wireless LAN capability for the first time at TeleCon 2001 in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 23. The product will be available for purchase from that date and pricing will range from $4,400 to $6,500, Gaffney said.

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