This is part two of a three part interview series with Polycom Co-Founder and Voice Division CTO, Jeffery Rodman. If you missed part one, you can check it out here.
Let the show continue…
You guys (Polycom) are known as the pioneers of HD VoIP with your HD Voice technology, can you tell us more about how HD Voice technology has evolved within Polycom and describe the for us the solutions you offer?
The first developers of real, usable wideband audio communications were the video conferencing industry, where PictureTel was the pioneer (as you probably know, Polycom’s founders included PictureTel in their heritage). We invented digital wideband audio for our PictureTel conferencing systems back in the 1980’s, and when we started Polycom in 1990, we were careful to leave space in our system architectures for full-bandwidth speech even though the phone lines weren’t yet ready to carry it. PictureTel’s re-joining Polycom in 2000 brought together the best audio communications technologists in the world, and together, they are the people who have transformed audio communications. Of the three G.722 standards, two were created and standardized by Polycom (Siren 7 and Siren 14, more formally known as G.722.1 and G.722.1 Annex C, for 7 and 14 kHz audio at and below 32 kbps). Polycom has driven HD Voice to 7kHz, 14 kHz, and to 20 and 22 kHz, first in its video products, and then in its voice products, and has been shipping live HD stereo audio (which nobody else has figured out even yet, although it’s essential for localization in live conversations) in its video systems for a couple of years now. We introduced the world’s first HD Voice speakerphone, the SoundStation VTX 1000, in 2003 (it works over a standard POTS line), and have followed that with an almost complete transformation of our VoIP products to HD Voice, both on desktops and in speakerphones.
Wow. That’s quite the pedigree. You mentioned quite a few technical references in your answers, and as you know I believe that the market is very misinformed when it comes to HD Voice, what is Polycom doing specifically to educate / enable the ecosystem to more readily accept (and ultimately implement) HD Voice?
Polycom is an active leader in interop testing of both wideband and narrowband VoIP, which helps ensure that system enhancement is fast and painless. We participate in the major forums and do a lot of writing, speaking, and demonstration of HD Voice, and are working with most of the leading players in the business to ensure that HD Voice works smoothly within existing VoIP networks. In addition, Polycom has recently changed the licensing terms of its popular Siren7 (G.722.1) codec to eliminate royalties, meaning that HD Voice at 7 and 14 kHz are now available at 16, 24, and 32 kbps license-fee using fully ITU-certified codecs.
Makes sense. Speaking of the ecosystem, what is the value add for resellers and ITSPs to offer their customers HD Voice solutions?
It’s still a transitional time, and so some service providers haven’t enabled wideband yet. This means there’s an opportunity for those who do, because they are providing a distinctive advantage to current and new customers, as well as positioning themselves as a leader in their market. Further, once you’ve opened the conversation to HD Voice (remember the “transparent network”?), you can also bring in other services that share that transparent network, such as bridging (multipoint calls are much clearer in HD), video conferencing and bridging, streaming, training and support…the list goes on, for both equipment sales and rentals, and for network services that enhance them. In fact, Polycom already has 12 ITSP partners offering HD Voice, and we expect that list to continue growing.
Okay, but as a reseller, how does Polycom’s HD Voice allow me to better serve my customers? Better yet, how does Polycom’s HD Voice allow me to make more money, or differentiate myself from other resellers?
Both Polycom resellers and their customers benefit from Polycom HD Voice. Polycom’s famous sound quality, ease of use and reliability bring better efficiency and comfort to the user, while also allowing the reseller to provide these distinctive advantages at lower cost of support. In fact, a number of resellers consider their HD Voice offerings a competitive advantage, because the truth is that once you hear HD Voice in action, you’ll definitely want to make the investment. The market is moving to HD Voice as part of the natural evolution of VoIP. What reseller wouldn’t want to offer customers the best products available today that also future-proof their customers’ investments?
Fair enough. Let’s talk about the future for a moment. What types of product do you see entering the market as HD Voice becomes more mainstream – a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have”?
People want to communicate. It’s the simple things that will come first, the things that people need but haven’t been able to get: a speakerphone that gives you the whole range of human speech and sounds like they’re right there in the same room with you, a telephone that sounds like a private chat with a friend. Because it’s an IP network (did I say “transparent”?), video is coming sooner than anyone thinks. It’s interesting how that works; seems like video might just be a frill, but when you actually see and use it, there’s a part of you that leaps forward and thinks “that’s what I’ve been missing!” I’ve actually seen this happen numerous times with people – we’ll describe a video connection and show them the system standing by and they say “uh – huh,” but then dial it up and their eyes pop open, their jaws drop, and they start talking about how they could really put this to use in their business.
Tune in tomorrow for more Jeff’s thoughts on HD VoIP tomorrow with the conclusion to this three part interview series.