The futuristic vision of picking up the phone and seeing the person on
the other end, is here. It’s been here for years, in one way or the
other and as I recall AT&T had some futuristic telephones with
voice and picture service many years ago.
For many of us, the aspect of traditional telephones with embedded
video calling has given way to video calling with Skype, ooVoo or some
Vidtel has a “real phone
solution” that lets you use your own telephone number and pick up the
phone and call anyone, just like your normal phone. If you want to SEE
the other person, then you need the person you are calling to have a
corresponding video phone.
The rates are quite competitive, with two plans currently offered::
$15 or $25 a month. With the higher plan you get unlimited calling to
Canada and throughout the USA. The phone system, $200 each, is pretty
simple to setup.
Mariette Johnson Wharton, VP of Marketing for Vidtel answers some
questions which will hopefully help you clarify if a video telephone is
Why not use free service like Skype, OoVoo, or others?
It’s hard to compete with free, but on the other hand, people often
pay for convenience and superior quality, which is what we offer. The
quality of web-based chat services is uneven and unpredictable. We
operate the network at the core and for business users, provision an
on-premises quality-of-service box that prioritizes the video phone
calls. Users of web-based services often note that there is an
inconvenience factor with scheduling web chat. With our service, right
now we’re based on a dedicated device – just pick it up and dial. As
easy as a regular phone call. Thirdly, not everyone is tech-savvy
enough to cope with installation issues or incompatibility with web
cams, etc. In fact 99% of the population does not use Skype. Our
service also does regular phone calls so it’s all you need for telecom.
AT&t tried the video phone so many years ago, but it never took off – what’s the difference now.
Great question! It’s a completely different ball game now. In the
mid-1990s when AT&T tried it, the phones were cost-prohibitive at
$1500. That alone would have predicted low penetration. Ours is $199.95
and the quality is much better. Bandwidth was a problem back then.
Dial-up speeds were slow so the user experience was terrible (the video
was choppy and the audio quality was also poor). Today, broadband
connectivity is widespread and fast. Calls on our network are smooth,
full-motion video and high-quality audio in sync with the video.
Why make the system “closed” so that only Vidtel phone users can communicate? Any thought to have it open in some way?
We completely agree. Our aim is to be the first to create an open
system. Today, the proprietary nature of Skype and others means that
people can’t talk to each other on different networks. Our vision is
turn all of that on its head and create universal video calling, so
that any device (e.g., mobile phones, different kinds of video phones,
gaming systems, TVs) interoperates with any network (e.g., Skype,
iChat, GoogleTalk, Polycom video conferencing). We are moving on that
today and will be interoperating with mobile phones and web-based chat
like Skype, GoogleTalk and Polycom later in 2009.
Who would buy this phone system? What type of business and what uses?