Travel budget cuts help TeliaSonera set teleconferencing record

Interest in teleconferencing is growing rapidly as the financial crisis prompts companies to cut travel budgets. Use of TeliaSonera’s Swedish teleconferencing service was growing at an average of around 12 percent year on year until September, when growth jumped to 30 percent year on year as the severity of the financial crisis became more apparent, according to TeliaSonera.

In October, TeliaSonera’s Swedish enterprise customers set a new record by using Telia’s teleconferencing system for more than 100,000 hours.

It’s not just about the money. Greater environmental awareness is another contributing factor to the growth, according to Sverker Hannervall, head of Business Services at TeliaSonera in Sweden.

The expansion of the installed base of users has outpaced growth in actual usage, with one company in five using teleconferences today, TeliaSonera said. In one year, the proportion of companies using it has risen from 9 percent to 22 percent.

Videoconferencing is also catching on: 20 percent of companies now say they use it, compared to 7 percent last year, TeliaSonera said.

The gap between the number of users and actual usage growth has to do with the fact that some companies still use conferencing rarely , maybe just once every quarter, according to Carina Kampe, spokeswoman at Telia Business Services.

To change that, Telia has to work with customers and explain how they can use conferencing more effectively, said Kampe.

The operator expects the growth to accelerate during next year.

Another factor behind the growth in adoption is improved usability. Systems have become more easy to use, which is good for companies that simply can’t be bothered with cumbersome setup procedures. The push of one button is all it should take to be up and running, according to Kampe.

Image and audio quality are becoming more important for making video conferences a viable alternative to physical meetings, according to Telia, which offers high-definition video conferencing.

Several vendors are today offering high-definition video conferencing systems, including Cisco, Tandberg and Hewlett-Packard.