Boston--In the laboratories of MCI Communications Corp. and British Telecommunications plc, engineers are testing multimedia applications of the future. By merging Internet and phone networks, new business and medical applications will range from Web-based video call centers to surrogate surgeries where a physician attends an operation via a voice/video link over dial-up ISDN lines.
Yesterday representatives from this telecommunications alliance gathered here at the World Trade Center, describing ongoing efforts to build a 40G bits-per-second high-bandwidth network architecture by layering multigigabit routers on existing fiber networks.
MCI's Vault, a technology initiative announced in January that will bridge phone and Internet networks, represents the first fruit of its labor. V-class products, including directlineMCI that lists one number to route a call to a wireless phone, cellular phone, page or fax, now provides a user with a Web interface to change a profile. In the next release, due midyear, video mail will be accessible, said MCI officials.
"MCI has written an application, running in our labs, that enables a caller to record and view a message in real time," said Vint Cerf, senior vice president, Internet Architecture. "This will significantly increase the use of video as a communications medium."
The enabling factors behind the mainstream use of video mail include advanced low-bit-rate (28K bits/sec) video and audio, more powerful desktops, and emerging standards like H323 and H324. Furthermore, the video--which is transmitted at about 10 frames-per-second over a 28.8K-bps dial-up--is never downloaded onto the PC, but it can still be controlled by fast-forward or rewind commands as if it were in the PC's buffer, said Cerf.
In addition, MCI is working on 1M bps fractal compression algorithms that will deliver images, video and eventually audio faster than MPEG-2 that transmits at 6M bps, said officials.
Ultimately, the goal is to "humanize" the technology making it easier to use, and to "get capacity to places" proving that "BT and MCI and Concert are more than just a telco," said Peter Cochrane, BT's head of advanced applications and technologies.