I am new to Video conferencing equipment and would like some information on how to set up a V2IP solution for my company. I would appreciate some general information.
We would like to have video conferencing with the conference chair in North America and four to seven other sites in Asia. We will set up a local T1 Connection (for Internet Access) for the call.
What hardware will be required to make high quality audio and video? Do we need the IPVC? Or can each participant (including the chair) purchase either a PolyCom Via Video or VCON Vigo to have a good connection?
Is a T1 Connection to the Internet good enough?
Any information with regards to this would be greatly appreciated.
You have many options, depending on what you would like to accomplish in your conferences and of course, your budget.
You have two basic types of systems: H.320 (ISDN), and H.323 (video over IP). If you would like two systems to have a point-to-point conference, you simply dial the phone number or IP address of the far end system.
If you would like to implement a dialing plan or AAA (authentication, authorization, and accounting), you would need to implement Cisco's MCM. The dialing plan is for your end users ease of use. We typically use a dialing plan similar to the phone system, in which we give each end-point a unique telephone style number, better referred to as an E.164 address. The gatekeeper function of the MCM resolves the E.164 address to either an IP address, or directs it toward the gateway.
The purpose of the gateway is to bridge an H.323 network to an H.320 network. Cisco's 3520 or 3525 Gateway will allow your ISDN end-points to confer with your IP end-points. In order to have a conference with three or more end-points you would need to implement Cisco's 3510 or 3540 MCU, depending on your needs and future scalability. This allows you to have multiple end-points in a conference, as well as multiple presence, which is a quad screen showing your speaker and three other sites.
There are also many options for sharing data during your conferences. Bandwidth requirements depend on the video quality, and number of end-points you use. You also have many ways to "fine tune" your network by implementing QOS.
We have tested Cisco's 3525 Gateway, 3540 MCU, and two 2610 routers running the MCM software and HSRP for redundancy. In our lab we connected a PictureTel 900, Polycom Viewstation 512, VTEL Galaxy, Tandberg 6000, Tandberg 1000, and two Vcon Escorts together in a conference, utilizing both H.320 and H.323 end-points. Everything worked well together and I was very pleased. I hope this helps.
Yes, it is possible to use WebCams and ea. Netmeeting. What endpoint you use is generally tranparent in function of MCU capabilities. Most endpoint do support the necessary (control) protocols to interact with an MCU. The MCU capabilities are offered by the MCU unit, like the Cisco 3510 and/or 3540 (for H.323/IP conferences). There are also H.320(ISDN)MCU's. Although it is possible for H.323 endpoints to have a MCU session without a dedicated MCU, none offer that functionality today. More 'higher-end' VC endpoints such as the Polycom VievStation 512MP and others (Tandberg, Sony,..) have a limited MCU capacity build in. Most of these can still interact (cascade) with other dedicated H.323 and H.320 MCU's
Multicasting on the other hand is a functionality that is handled by the endpoints (ea. VCON) and will not be available with most WebCam applications.
To give you some additional answers to the original question: a T1 would be sufficient to have a good quality videoconference in optimal circumstances. QoS is the keyword here. If you find a ISP who can guarantee QoS end-to-end from North America to Asia (through VPN) then you might be successful. Otherwise, just plain internet will kill your VC connection.
Although I like to mix and match unsupported vendors in our lab to see how they bump heads, most people prefer an environment with fewer headaches. Unless you like to torment yourself as I do, I suggest sticking to Cisco's list of supported vendors. You have many options available depending on your budget, with prices dropping all the time.
If you are looking to stream video, say from a single source to a wider audience, you should look into Cisco IP/TV line of products. Streaming video can also lessen the burden on your network, although you lose some of the direct interaction of video conferencing.
Whatever your choice in products, the key is having the proper quality of service to support your network.
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