by Michael Shapiro | April 8, 2011

This week a company based in Belgium announced plans to deploy 20,000 videoconferencing rooms worldwide, with the goal of making the technology a more accessible and realistic possibility for travel and meeting planners. The company, Global Videoconferencing Network, is aiming for the mid-market appeal of quality videoconferencing rooms, and not necessarily the high-tech studios with telepresence equipment. One key to their plan is to keep the process as simple as possible: to integrate easily with travel-booking platforms as well as the communications infrastructure of both corporations and hotels.
The other key is the sheer volume of the deployment. "In the videoconferencing industry, nobody's ever taken this to scale," said Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner with independent market research firm Wainhouse Research. I chatted with Weinstein to get his take on the plan; his company had been briefed by GVN and, while he has no affiliation with them, he's impressed with their intentions. Working in tandem with the grand scale, he said, is the idea of consistency of experience. "These will be dedicated, duplicated rooms intended for videoconferencing. They want to make this as convenient and easy as possible."
The biggest challenge, noted Weinstein, is that they still have to get people to book the rooms. The public rooms that are currently available, be they in hotels, standalone units or corporations, generally experience fairly light usage, according to Weinstein. By working closely with travel-booking platforms, GVN hopes to get their network in front of would-be travelers before they book their flights.
While that idea isn't new — TMC booking platforms have been touting such functionality for several years — GVN is banking on the combination of ease and scale to help push videoconferencing spaces more into the forefront. If they manage to launch a significant number of these rooms in the next year or two, that could be great publicity not only for GVN's inventory but also for the rooms already on the market. If the technology delivers a satisfying meeting experience, both planners and attendees should be quicker to consider videoconferencing, even as a hybrid add-on to face-to-face events.