SaskTel early to video calling market

Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel) is ramping up its effort to be among the first in Canada to offer instant video and teleconference calling capabilities.

To help make that happen, SaskTel signed an agreement with Nortel Networks Inc. worth US$5 million for the Brampton, Ont.-based company’s Multimedia Communications portfolio of products, which will enable it to deliver multimedia services such as video calling, picture caller ID, conferencing and file exchange via the software applications included in the suite.

The multimedia solutions offer new session initiation protocol (SIP)-based capabilities, according to Nortel.

The equipment maker will also supply its Succession voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) equipment, which will enable SaskTel to offer instant video calling and packet voice services to its customers.

Nortel’s Mike Doerk, senior manager of Multimedia Communications portfolio and marketing in Richardson, Tex., said the company’s multimedia software package is targeted to the mobile and distributed workforce’s horizontal users. “While on a call, you can (send) an instant message off or do a file exchange,” he said.

While the technology promises to marry VoIP, video calling and conferencing and instant messaging, Doerk noted that it is “an emerging market, but we see this as a market that is poised to take off.”

Toronto-based Elroy Jopling, principal analyst at Gartner Inc., agreed that although videoconferencing is in its early days, SaskTel has earned a reputation for implementing bleeding-edge technologies.

“What SaskTel and Nortel are trying to do is raise the bar and have new applications and things that the user wants… [SaskTel] has an advantage in the sense that it has a closed environment and a smaller market that it understands very well and a market where this type of new technology can have an interesting breeding ground,” he said. He added that the call centre industry is one vertical that could benefit from the use of multimedia applications.

Montreal-based Brownlee Thomas, a research director at Forrester Research Inc., said SaskTel’s main reason for adding videoconferencing to its line-up to make the professional services to it offers customers in Canada and internationally more attractive.

“These are supplementary-type services to help you differentiate your product line…SaskTel bought it because it has customers that want the service and is doing it to support its existing customers,” she said. While not a lucrative market, she noted that videoconferencing is well suited for e-learning and remote-office users.

Also last month, TMP Technologies Inc., an online recruitment outfit and subsidiary of Monster Worldwide Inc., said it is testing Nortel’s Multimedia solutions. The company said it is exploring using capabilities such as real-time messaging and personalized services under a single interface.