Startup offers videoconferencing options

Codian Ltd., a U.K. startup, is joining the videoconferencing network fray with a multipoint control unit for letting users connect multiple H.323-based audio and video endpoints in one call. The product is scheduled to make its public debut next week at the Video Conference Summit in New York.

A key feature of the Codian 4200 is the ability for each video participant to choose one of 35 different “continuous presence” layouts for viewing other participants. MCUs from competing vendors only allow for one view for all participants. Other features include Web-based scheduling, the ability for a user to call in by phone and have the MCU make a video call back to their associated video endpoint, and streaming of conference calls to view-only participants using QuickTime or RealNetworks Inc.’s Real media software. Codian uses C64 digital signal processors from Texas Instruments Inc. with proprietary audio/video codecs and protocols to power its MCU. It is housed in a 1U-high chassis with two gigabit Ethernet ports and runs the NetBSD operating system, says David Halloway, Codian’s CEO. The company offers three versions that can service 20, 40 or 100 simultaneous participants. A built-in Compact Flash slot can be used for upgrading the MCU’s firmware or uploading system configurations.

There are not many players in the MCU market, but those that are include well-entrenched videoconferencing veterans such as Polycom Inc., Radvision Corp. and Tandberg. All three vendors have support for the newer H.264 video-compression standard, which offers the same quality as its H.263 predecessor at half the bandwidth. But Codian initially is supporting only H.263.

“They do have a nice advantage using the newer (Texas Instruments) digital signal processors and seem to have plenty of headroom to grow in features and capability,” said Andrew Davis, principal analyst at Wainhouse Research. Davis says Codian could be challenged by the fact it only sells one product, where its competitors have complete lines of products including MCUs, video endpoints and management software.

Codian is set to begin shipping its product Feb. 23, with the 20-user model priced at US$29,000.

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