Editor’s Angle Greg Enright Video traffic overshadowed

When the topic of network convergence arises, the catchy “voice, video and data” phrase is usually not far behind. In today’s era of IP growth, the capability to transmit all three types of traffic over a single infrastructure exists, and continues to become more robust. But just how deserving of inclusion are each of the elements that make up the phrase?

Voice and data are the two primary traffic types that are spurring corporations down the convergence path. Every enterprise has to handle voice and data traffic in some way, so it makes sense for them to at least be aware of this new method of carrying them. But what of video?

Not every enterprise is in dire need of sending and receiving video traffic. While videoconferencing technology is making inroads in certain markets, many organizations are doing just fine with audioconferencing technology; many more are content to carry on with regular face-to-face meetings, even if that process does require some degree of air travel.

One of the biggest drivers of video traffic, however, is being seen on a less dramatic scale than that of videoconferencing. Increasingly, more employees are finding value in accessing video clips on the Internet. Although that often includes highlights of the previous evening’s hockey games, there is nevertheless an increasing amount of useful training and skills-related content on the Net that is delivered in video format.

As this convenient form of education grows over the next few years, so too will the demand for bigger bandwidth. For firms looking to improve the skills of their staffs either through in-house or outside Internet-based video instruction, the video piece of the convergence equation will become more relevant.

In today’s unforgiving IT economic climate, however, training of any kind is becoming somewhat of a luxury for many companies. The reality is that the demand for video traffic over computer wires is being seen mainly in niche areas. The health care and educational sectors, for instance, are somewhat ahead of the adoption curve due to the tangible and immediate improvements that online video capabilities are bringing to those vertical markets.

Universities, for instance, can broaden the reach of their courses and allow students in regions nowhere near a campus to enrol in them. Hospitals can connect specialists via video to medical procedures where their expertise can help save lives.

Despite such inroads, however, adoption of video has not been seen on a wide enough scale to be able to lump it in with voice and data convergence. Further, there are no guarantees that the use of video will enjoy wide adoption in non-niche markets. It will most likely take a good deal of time before those who feel most comfortable meeting face to face will alter their way of thinking and accept videoconferencing as a viable alternative.

So while it reasonable for us to expect further growth in the use of video traffic over converged wires, it’s not unreasonable to believe it will continually lag behind the proliferation of voice and data traffic over those connections.