Tandberg announces Telepresence T3

Tandberg SA’s Telepresence T3 system is good at hosting multi-point video conferences, but it still hogs a lot of bandwidth, according to one analyst.

“The typical large enterprise would benefit from Telepresence solutions, including T3,” said Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner with Ducksbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research LLC. “Bandwidth is definitely one of the most significant barriers for Telepresence.” But for those who can afford the $300,000 initial purchase from Oslo, Norway-based Tandberg, the payoff is “massive,” Weinstein said, because senior executives get a similar experience to meeting face to face, without leaving the office.

Telepresence T3, which is scheduled to ship in January, includes three 65-inch displays, three 1080p cameras, lighting and Tandberg’s Telepresence server. It also includes touch screens that let users place calls.

The cost is lower than that of Cisco Systems Inc.’s Telepresence 3200, which can accommodate 12 to 18 participants, but costs the same as Cisco Telepresence 3000 did when it was introduced two years ago.

An extra option in Tandberg’s T3 includes blue walls wood treatment and blue lighting, which costs an additional $39,000, said Boris Koechlin, president of Tandberg Canada.

Koechlin said the T3 is designed to work with other visual media products, including PC based video, H.323 codec-based video and session initiation protocol (SIP).

“You can push the button and get that experience between other Telepresence units, but you can just as easily invite a guest to your meeting without losing any of that experience,” Koechlin said.

This is one major strength of the product, Weinstein said, adding one way of linking to a conference caller who is not on Tandberg Telepresence T3 is to take one of the three T3 screens and use it for the guest. But users can also superimpose the video link to the person not using Telepresence on the bottom of a Telepresence screen.

“If I’ve got more than one other location, each with three screens, I can’t see everybody at the same time,” Weinstein said. “I’ve either got to switch between the locations, so somebody’s hidden all the time, or I have to mix and match segments, or decrease people’s size on screen. What I appreciated about this Telepresence server is it lets the end user choose their compromise, instead of deciding for them.”

The minimum bandwidth for Tandberg Telepresence T3 is three Megabits per second (Mbps), while the maximum bandwidth, with 1080p resolutions, is 18 Mbps. “1080p as a medium is going to require a fair bit of bandwidth,” Koechlin said. “You’re looking at 4 to 5 (Mbps) per codec and you’re looking at three codecs per device. At full definition you’re looking at 15 (Mbps) connections as a starting point.”

But he added the device works “very well” at 720p.

“You don’t have to have the full 15 (Mbps) to fire the unit up,” he said. “There are more reasonable bandwidths the organization can run the unit at.”

Another feature is Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) security.

Tandberg offers installation services for the Telepresence T3, and is currently certifying service providers in Canada. The names of the service providers had not been released at press time.

Services include site surveys, network assessment and provisioning, room design and maintenance.

“We’re seeing increased demand for telepresence and video conference,” Weinstein said.

“When you look at the company’s offering, we believe the strength is in their coverage from top to bottom. With this release, Tandberg has sort of filled in the top of their pyramid.”

Tandberg is currently shipping Experia, which includes four 50-inch monitors, cameras and codecs, and is designed to provide conferencing to four different locations.

“Their Experia product was sort of a point product,” Weinstein said. “It addressed some customer requirements but there’s a group of customers that want these systems to be integrated into the room, not just sort of a platform you drop into the middle.”

Other companies in the space include LifeSize Communications Inc., and HP, which ships the Halo product.

“We have a good relationship with HP and work closely with them,” Koechlin said. “There’s more news coming with regard to the relationship with HP.”