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BSNL to roll out video calling on landlines in Chennai

M. Dinesh Varma
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An illustration of how video telephony on broadband works seamlessly with voice call and data services on a BSNL landline.
An illustration of how video telephony on broadband works seamlessly with voice call and data services on a BSNL landline.

BSNL Chennai Telephones will shortly roll out video calling facility on its landline network.

The Voice and Video on Broadband (VVoBB) service has already been launched in Delhi and a few other telecom circles of the BSNL. The VVoBB service allows users to go one-on-one or simultaneously connect to multiple users.

How it works

The VVoBB uses packet switching technology that converts phone calls into data packets and transmits them through a high-speed broadband connection via an exclusive Private Virtual Circuit (PVC). When voice and video data reach the other end, it is converted back into voice and video. Using an Analog Telephone Adaptor (see illustration) that connects to the broadband modem, a subscriber will be able to simultaneous work a normal phone, broadband Internet and video phone.

According to officials, BSNL also has a nationwide plan to push video telephony deeper mainstream by installing a network of Video Calling Offices (VCOs) on the lines of the PCOs. Chennai’s share of the 10,000 VCOs proposed across the country is 350 outlets, which could either be attached to Customer Service Centres or franchised.

It is not hard to understand why BSNL at present is focusing on business clients at this early stage of video telephony evolution.

Not only is a broadband connection a pre-requisite, a customer needs to buy a video phone that does not come cheap. The V-fone is currently available in a base model of Rs. 14,900, a more pricey variant of Rs. 24,900 and a high-end version of over Rs. 4 lakh.

“Though business clients and government departments will be our primary targets, we will come up with customer-friendly plans for the regular users as well,” said G. Vijaya, BSNL Chennai Telephones spokesperson.

If the tariff structure adopted by BSNL’s Andhra Pradesh circle is any indication, a video call has been pegged at Rs. 2.5 per minute with the price of the instrument absorbed over equated monthly instalments.

“By tapping into unused broadband bandwidth of BSNL, we will be able to provide high resolution images and a better video-calling experience unlike other web-based video telephony services,” said a spokesman for Click Telecom, BSNL’s technology partner for the VVoBB service.

Also, unlike other web-based video telephony services, this service provides a secure channel of communication via a dedicated server, the official said.

In the West, video telephony has proved an invaluable assist for the speech or hearing impaired who can use the medium to communicate in sign language.

BSNL, which has tied up with Gujarat-based Sai Info System (SIS) for supply of the video-phone instruments, also aims to press home a few other advantages such as free incoming video calls, zero bandwidth charges for video calls, no freezing of videos, no need to log in to a computer, or for that matter, no need for a computer itself.

Though the video-calling feature on 3G mobile platform has not been a money spinner for BSNL or other telecom operators, BSNL officials believe that the VVoBB brings to the table a more convenient way of face-to-face conversation and a quality of interaction much superior to free web-based platforms like Skype or Google Hangout.

However, last week, the VVoBB roll out plan seemed to hit a stumbling block following reports about SIS plunging into financial crisis. When contacted, R.K. Upadhyay, BSNL CMD, said the existing services or future roll out of VVoBB have not been affected in any way.

The VVoBB service allows users to go

one-on-one or simultaneously connect to multiple users

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