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Vonage VoIP Videophone - See Who's Calling, Not Just Hear Them

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Videophone: See Who's Calling, Not Just Hear Him

January 17, 2005

By Zatni Arbi

We have been talking about videophones for a very long time. We want the ability to see the face of the person we are talking to through the telephone.

However, suppose someone asks us whether we really need videophones, or whether videophones will really improve our productivity, our answer is most likely to be "no, not really". For most of us, videophones are something that would be nice to have, and that is it.

Especially at home, where we rarely look presentable, we may rarely turn on the video camera. Who would be dressed nicely or perfectly made-up at any time during the day just to look OK on the videophone in case someone calls? Only those sinetron (TV soap opera) stars would.

In the past, the promises to add video to the telephone were never truly delivered. Data compression was not as good as it is now, although even now it is not as good as it should be. That is why videophones were not commonplace.

However, times are changing.

Today we have a dazzling choice of videophones, and they are already available here in Jakarta. Basically, we have two different types of videophones: One that use the Internet and one that uses the existing Plain Old Telephone System (POTS).

The IP-based videophones work more or less the same as instant messaging using a multimedia computer. Normally, the IP-based videophones are sold with their service plans. Examples are the upcoming Vonage, due to be launched this quarter in the U.S.

Another example is VoicePulse, which is also due to be introduced soon. In France, LeadTek is working together with France Telecom to provide IP-based video-calling capability to subscribers of a new service called MaLigne visio.

If the Voip services are not available, then you should go with other makes and models that just use the standard telephone lines. One of the most popular videophone is the Beamer FX from Vialta (US$ 599.00 per pair), and it is also sold here in Indonesia. Beamer videophones have a very sleek design, and can display digital images stored in memory cards when they are not in use.

Another POTS videophone is TeleVyou 500 from LeadTek. If your office or apartment building has ISDN connection, you can choose TeleVyou 511 from the same company.

If the videophone's screen is too small for you, you can even use your TV set to add video for your phone conversation. The US$150 Beamer TV Videophone and some other videophones can do that for you.

There are a couple of things that you should know about the videophones that use the standard phone lines. First, due to some proprietary technology you may need the same devices on both ends. That is why these devices are usually sold in pairs. In general, however, they follow the ITU-T H.324 standard.

Second, do not expect smooth and sharp DVD-quality video image on them. You are more likely to have jerky images. So, if you use videophones, limit your body movement while talking on the phone. It is also advisable that you do not wear bright or stripped shirt or blouse when using the videophones.

While the audio part is just as good as in your regular telephone set, sometimes you do hear garbled voice. Some videophones, such as the TeleVyou 500 POTS from LeadTek, use color displays, too. Other models offer useful features such as video capture.

Videophones are dropping in price, and more models are becoming available. If you choose the POTS version, there will be no charge for adding video to your voice conversation. It seems that we can now start thinking of the real uses of the videophones.

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