Teleconferencing and webcast services host audio and/or video conferencing and webinars for business presentations. Teleconferencing services enable users at different geographic locations to conduct audio and/or video conferences via telephone lines, wide area networks (LAN), satellite communications, or closed circuit television. Depending on the geographic distance and teleconferencing technology, the transmission of audio and video signals may occur in real-time or after a slight delay. Webcast services use the Internet or an intranet to stream live audio and/or video to users in real-time. Typically, streaming media is delivered in clips. Some teleconferencing and webcast services are similar to radio and television broadcasters in that they serve as content providers for an audience. Others use narrowcasting, multicasting, or other streaming media technologies to reach only selected participants. Typically, these webcasters facilitate interactive webinars in which the presenter and audience can communicate.
Capabilities and Costs
Teleconferencing and webcast services differ in terms of capabilities and costs. Services offered include: audio conferencing, web conferencing, video conferencing, and system integration. Audio conferencing services facilitate voice-only communications between dispersed groups. Meeting participants do not need special audio conferencing equipment and may not even require the assistance of an operator. Web conferencing services use telephone lines or Internet connections to enable participants to share documents or view presentations. Applications include project management, distance learning, and financial reporting. Video conferencing allows participants to meet face-to-face and enjoy both audio and video communications in real-time. Applications include product launches and design reviews. Teleconferencing and webcast services that specialize in system integration can help businesses connect existing communications systems to teleconferencing or webcasting technologies.
Selecting Teleconferencing and Webcast Services
Selecting teleconferencing and webcast services requires an understanding of application requirements and available technologies. Audio conferencing is suitable for meetings with a small number of participants. Video conferencing is suitable for larger, dispersed groups in which the meeting organizer needs to be able to see the reactions of attendees. Web conferencing is designed for large groups that need to share visuals or collaborate on documents, databases, and presentations. In terms of technologies, teleconferencing and webcast services may use Internet protocol (IP), integrated services digital network (ISDN), voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), or wireless communications. Streaming media protocols include user datagram protocol (UDP), real-time streaming protocol (RTSP), real-time transport protocol (RTP) and real-time transport control protocol (RTCP). Unicast protocols send a separate copy of the media stream from the webcast server to each webcast client. Multicast protocols send only one copy of the media stream over a given network connection.