Cisco Makes HD-Video Call

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Want to show grandma
her beaming grandbaby in dazzling
full high-definition video
from across the country? You
might have to upgrade your
broadband connection.

Cisco Systems this fall will debut
an expensive home videoconferencing
system at retail,
dubbed “umi,” that can deliver up
to 1080p HD — a system that, if
widely adopted, would stress the
upstream capacity of many cable
and DSL broadband networks.

Verizon Communications, eyeing
an opportunity to exploit the
upstream capacity of its FiOS
fiber-to-the-home network, said
it is working with Cisco to provide
the umi to FiOS Internet customers
in early 2011.

But at least initially,
the umi will be a
pricey alternative,
limiting its massmarket
appeal. The
product, to ship in
mid-November, will
carry a suggested retail
price of $599 plus
a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited
calls and up to 100 minutes of
video-message storage.

The Cisco umi requires a broadband
connection with a minimum
upload speed of 1.5 Mbps
for video calls in standard-definition,
and 3.5 Mbps upstream
for 1080p HD calls. For cable, upload
speeds have been an Achilles
heel, with upstream DOCSIS
connectivity typically limited to
the range of 5 to 42 MHz.

The umi is a consumer version
of Cisco’s TelePresence Meeting
product line for businesses.
The system comprises a remote,
a set-top and a camera, which
connects to an existing HD television
and a broadband internet
connection. It can place calls to
users who don’t have an umi via
Google video chat running on a
PC with a webcam.