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October 7, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

The Maidenhead, Berkshire-based PictureTel Ltd subsidiary of the Peabody, Masssachusetts videophone pioneer has brought out two low-end additions to its videoconferencing range and while the technology is still not exactly cheap, at least it is just below UKP20,000 per station. The monochrome Model 20 and the colour Model 100 are essentially very similar: the two ISDN 64Kbps bearer channels are grouped together into a logical 128Kbps circuit, around 32Kbps of which are used for voice, with the rest going to video. Bandwidth is allocated on demand, however so stop talking for a few seconds and the capacity is given to the video channel. Does this mean that pictures magically get better during periods of silence? – Not noticeably, according to Andrew Jameson, the European marketing manager, who says that it is just one of the many tricks that the company has used to get an acceptable picture. By themselves the Model 20 and the UKP23,500 Model 100 can only cope with point-to point conversations, adding extra sites to the conference requires the new M-8000 multiport bridge: people wanting to join a particular conference dial the bridge and enter a password. The M-8000 costs around $100,000 in Europe. It remains to be seen how companies such as PictureTel will respond to the challenge from the likes of the Amstrad Plc-GEC Plc Marconi alliance which has announced its intention to produce simple video-telephones for around UKP500. Of course it also remains to be seen whether or not they can come up with an attractive product.

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