Frequently Asked Questions

What is Videoconferencing?

How does Videoconferencing work?

What is NIC's Videoconferencing Services?

What are the various nodes of NIC VIDCON Network?

Tell me more about NIC Video conferencing Services and its capabilities?

What are the Salient Features of NIC Videoconferencing Services?

Who can avail NIC VIDCON Services?

What are the charges for using videoconferencing services of NIC?

Whom should I contact for availing the services?

What are the various types of Videoconferencing?

What are the various components of Videoconferencing Equipment?

What are the applications of Videoconferencing?

What are the future trends in Videoconferencing technology?

What do you mean fps?

What do you mean by CODEC?

What are Lossy and lossless compression?

What are various coding techniques?

What are FCIF/QCIF?

What is leased Line?

Explain Multipoint Conference Server (MCS) and its functions?

What do your mean by MBone?

What is ISDN?

What are NT1 and TA in ISDN circuit?

What is Continuous Presence Videoconferencing?

Whom should you contact for Booking Videoconferencing?

          
1. What is Videoconferencing?

                Video Conferencing may be defined as a two way audio-video meeting in real time amongst people present at geographically dispersed locations.
 

2. How does Videoconferencing work?

               
The hardware used is a video coding / decoding card (CODEC) which is installed in a Pentium based computer along with a video camera, microphone and speakers. A dedicated bandwidth of 128 Kbps or more is required over a wide area network for transporting audio and video information between the two CODECs. This network could be over an ISDN line or a satellite based leased line. Video is displayed on a TV screen and "hands free" audio communication is done using microphones and speakers. CODEC compresses the audio and video and then sends it over the high-speed link. This sound and moving image is reproduced at the remote end by another CODEC. All video conferencing systems work in a full duplex mode i.e. encoding and decoding in both directions simultaneously.
 

3. What is NIC's Videoconferencing Services?

                NIC's studio based videoconferencing system brings people and information together into the conference room to get the right decisions made quickly. With NIC's multipoint connectivity, upto 5 sites can collaborate with each other in a "Continuous Presence" mode where each site sees the remaining four sites all the time in different quadrants of the display monitor. All the capabilities of your desktop PC are now available in the videoconferencing studio for sharing it with remote participants. NIC is currently providing videoconferencing services from 490 cities in India including North-Eastern State capitals over its high speed satellite based network called "NICNET". This is the largest videoconferencing network of its kind in India.
 

4. What are the various nodes of NIC VIDCON Network?

                NIC has setup H.320 standard compliant video conferencing studios in 490 cities of India over its high-speed satellite network called the NICNET INFO HIGHWAY. Download the list of NIC Videoconferencing Studios from here.
 

5. Tell me more about NIC Video conferencing Services and its capabilities?

  • NIC's Video Conferencing Services

                    By using this facility, Government and Industry will be able to share information with the best of talent available anywhere in the country regardless of distance. NIC's multipoint videoconferencing service enables several sites to participate in a live conference with audio, video and document sharing. Multipoint Conference Server (MCS) will work with all VC systems connected over different types of communication networks. For example, if a user in Patna with satellite connectivity wants to have a conference with one or more sites having ISDN links, the MCS makes it possible. Each of the sites is connected in a star configuration to the MCS at New Delhi, and a multipoint conference can be started at a pre-defined time. MCS supports T.120 document sharing and multiple video conferencing session's upto 384 Kbps with different network types. The network used for NIC's Videoconferencing services is a SCPC VSAT link operating at 128 Kbps from each of the 490 locations.

                    NIC has two portable SCPC VSAT of 1.8 mt and 1.2 mt dish size, which can be easily carried to any destination by air cargo within few days. With this facility, videoconferencing and high-speed data access can be provided from any city/district/village of India in a short time. This service can be utilised to provide short duration videoconferencing service for conferences, exhibitions and other important events. NIC has been providing videoconferencing services in the country since April 1994.

  • NIC's Capabilities

                    NIC's multipoint video conferencing service can connect upto 16 sites simultaneously out of which any 5 sites can work in a 'Continuous Presence' mode. MCS supports voice activated switching which enables the loudest speaker to be seen by all the sites in a conference, or it has a 'director control mode' wherein any one site can become the chairman and control the multipoint conference from it's own location. The control unit also supports international video conferencing using public ISDN networks.

                   NIC continues to prove its strength in real time communications by providing desktop videoconferencing in a collaborative environment. In this process NIC has contributed in bringing the state-of-art technology at affordable costs. As a pioneer in this field, its technical expertise is unmatched in the country.
     

    6. What are the Salient Features of NIC Videoconferencing Services?

                    A strong network across India at around 490 locations over High Speed network called NICNET.

                    Presence of MCS through which 8 sites can conference with each other at one time, five participating sites is good enough for a conference.

                    The Continuous Presence (CP) mode of MCS where four of the remote sites will always be visible in the remote monitor, occupying one quadrant of the screen.

    Feature of selecting one site on a full screen mode and then rejoining back in CP mode.

    One of the quadrant in a CP mode can be made as Voice activated, which means the remaining 3 sites out of 8 will be in a voice activated mode and will be seen in the quadrant once any audio is generated from these sites.

    Seamless Integration of ISDN, VSAT and LAN based videoconferencing site through MCS.

    International Videoconferencing capability over ISDN.

    Anytime...Anywhere...Mobile Videoconferencing using Quick deployable VSAT.
     

    7. Who can avail NIC VIDCON Services?

                    NIC provides IT support to various Government Ministries and Departments both at Central and State level. Planning Commission, Government of India, defines the user domain of NIC.
    As per the Gazette notification dated 2nd September 1995, NIC shall be able to support public and private organizations which are users/beneficiaries of or implements/franchisers engaged in the promotional activities/projects/programmes of national importance.

    Public Sector Units, Government bodies, Autonomous & Co-operative Societies, Semi-Government Organisations.

    Central Schemes, Centrally Sponsored Schemes, State Schemes and Aided Projects.

    Research and Educational Institutions, Libraries.

    Health, Medical & Family Welfare.

    Courts, Lok Adalats, Legal Information Systems.

    Decentralised Planning and Panchayatiraj Institutions.

    Rural Development Projects, Supporting Projects and Voluntary Organisations.

    Parliament, Parliamentarians, Legislative Assemblies, Member of Legislative Assembly.

    Women and Child Welfare Programmes.

    Exporters, Export Promotion and Export-Support Organisations

    Public Service Examinations.

    Water Management and Irrigation Information Systems.

    Sustainable Development Projects and Programmes for people below poverty line.

    Indian Missions and Trade Promotion Bodies abroad.

    Welfare of SC/ST and other Weaker Sections.

    Backward Area Development.

    Steel, Coal, Power, Cement and Transport Sectors.

    Marketing of Government Databases.

    Tourism Industry
     

    8. What are the charges for using Video Conferencing services of NIC?

                    Video Conferencing services of National Informatics Centre is only available for government organisations.
     

    9. Whom should I contact for availing the services?

                    To use this videoconferencing facility of NIC, please call the nearest site from your city and book the studio time. Walk into the video conferencing studio at the pre-arranged time and join the conference. Please check the list provided in the site with regards to various NIC VIDCON studios and details about the video conferencing coordinator in that particular site. You can also send your request by mail to: "vc-delhi@nic.in" or to any of the respective VC site coordinator directly.
     

    10. What are the various types of Videoconferencing?

    VC Systems
    Features Desktop Mini Group Board Room
    Network Interfaces LAN/ISDN ISDN/V.35 ISDN/V.35/X.21
    CODEC Software Hardware Proprietary Bus
    Input Video Camera Fixed PTZ/Slide PTZ/Slide/Document
    Output Devices VGA Monitor Single 29" TV Dual Monitor
    Control Interface Windows 95 System Based System Based
    Control Tool Mouse Remote Mouse Touch Panel
    Microphone Headset External Omni directional
    Speakers Headset TV Speakers TV Speakers
    Sharing of Data Integrated Separate External PC required Application
    No. of Participants 1 3-6 >10
     

    11. What are the various components of Videoconferencing Equipment?

    Following are the basic components of a videoconferencing system

    Codec

    Camera

    Control system

    Display equipment

    Audio system

    There are some optional components that can be attached to a videoconferencing system like

    Document camera for graphics transmission.

    Slide to video converter - for 35-mm slide input for making presentations.

    Whiteboard cameras - to display bigger documents or class room boards.

    VCR - a VHS VCR to playback video presentations and to record conferences for future references.

    Electronic whiteboard - a directly attachable module for board room discussions.

    PC - to display PC-based presentations and document sharing.

    Projector - to project the conference on a bigger screen.

    Fax / Printer.

    Various other features as audio-only participation can also be provided using a normal telephone as an additional plug-in module to the system. This is similar to Audio Conference that normally people do using a telephone system.
     

    12. What are the applications of Videoconferencing?

                    Business conferences and decision-making options depend critically upon the availability of information at the right time. In order to save time, business meetings are increasingly being conducted over telecommunication networks with the help of videoconferencing. Some of the areas in which videoconferencing is currently being used are:

    Distance Education and Training

                    One of the prime application areas of videoconferencing is distance education and training. In place of traditional learning methods, where people have to assemble at one place, interactive videoconferencing offers a classroom-like environment to learn through remote teaching. It also cuts down the travel cost. Employees of an organisation are being provided on-the-site training from a centralized location using videoconferencing.

    Business Conferences and Presentations

                    Corporate executives hold meetings with their counterparts without going out of their workplaces. Videoconferencing also facilitates effective multimedia presentations using computer interface, VCR, 35 mm slides, transparencies, electronic white board, etc. It brings one closer to one's customers and business partners.

    Remote Problem Solving

                    The technical problems and customer support are solved online via videoconferencing. This has drastically reduced the downtime and increased the productivity. Manufacturing units can be connected through videoconferencing systems to facilitate servicing operations and failure recovery mechanisms. With videoconferencing the production line people will become efficient and effective.

    Remote Banking

                    Videoconferencing can provide two way interactive banking facilities (for example, sanction of loans and selling mutual funds) where the customers can interact with bank officials from distant locations. This also reduces the costs involved in opening and maintaining new branches.

    Tele-medicine

                    Medical diagnosis and medicine prescription can be done over a VC setup by obtaining expert advice from remote sites. Evaluation of drug test results by scientists spread over different locations is made easier by videoconferencing.

    Marketing

                    Videoconferencing is gaining popularity in the area of marketing. Business houses are accepting it as a tool for public opinion, market survey, product release and customer feedback.
     

    13. What are the future trends in Videoconferencing technology?

                    The industry has accepted videoconferencing as the require tool for improving productivity of their business. The advent of multimedia and increased component integration has driven the development of more and more compact PC based desktop videoconferencing systems while maintaining functionality. This has lowered the prices, made setting up of systems easier and resulted in the emergence of viable desktop videoconferencing.
    Videoconferencing over LAN has become a reality. Now efforts are in the direction of multipoint desktop videoconferencing over LAN. Standards of videoconferencing over LAN and LAN-WAN interconnectivity are likely to come in the near future. Mobile videoconferencing is another emerging area.

                    The scenario of virtual classroom as the personal presence multipoint conferencing service will allow the, participants in the conference to dynamically choose which image they receive as well as manipulation of an image. With technological advances, it will become possible to manipulate video images in whatever manner the user wishes, like moving images to different positions of the screen, resizing the images, mixing one image with another, overlapping different images so as to provide a continuous picture appearance, etc. Frame by frame manipulation of video is another a attractive feature likely to come which will provide means to produce still pictures, rewind till a particular frame, interleave frames from different videos with varying frame rates, synchronize frames, etc.

                    MCS are becoming less expensive and also supports for continuous presence videoconferencing allowing multiple participants in a videoconference to view & interact with other participants in the conference simultaneously.
     

    14. What do you mean fps?

                    FPS stands for Frame Per Second. In videoconferencing fps is a term used for the number of frames transmitted or received per second. Every individual frame contains some image data that has to be transferred. The number of frame that can be transmitted depends upon two main factors, the quality of codec and the transmission channel (data rate). A frame transfer rate of 18 fps is considered to be reasonable for a good quality of video output.
     

    15. What do you mean by CODEC?

                    CODEC is an acronym for COder/DECoder. CODEC is the focal point of a videoconferencing system. The various functions of Codec include conversion of wide band analog signals into digital form, and vice versa, and removal of redundancy in audio and video signals (compression/decompression). It reduces the signal bandwidth from approximately 90 MBPS to as low as 56 Kbps or 64 Kbps, for better transmission over communication channels. Codecs are of two types, software codec and hardware codec, and hardware codec come in three speed ranges:

    Low bit-rate codec: It operates from 56 KBPS to 384 KBPS.

    T1/E1 codec: It operates from 56 KBPS to 1544 KBPS, or 64 KBPS to 2048 KBPS.

    High bit rate codec (>45 MBPS codec): This codec operates at very high bit rates to provide broadcast quality, suitable for HDTV type applications.
     

    16. What are Lossy and lossless compression?

                    Compression (Coding) is basically the process of removal of redundancy in the digital video signal. Compression techniques (Coding of video signals) can be classified as Source coding and Entropy coding. Source coding deals with the source material (video input) and yields lossy results where the picture quality gets degraded on reproduction of video during playback. Entropy coding uses the statistical property of video signals. In theory, it is a lossless coding technique, which do not yields in the loss of video signals on reproduction.
     

    17. What are various coding techniques?

                    There are three main types of digital coding techniques used for compression of input video signal. These are as follows:

    Intraframe coding: It removes redundant information from within a single video frame.

    Interframe coding: It compares each frame with the previous frame, and transmits only the parts that have changed.

    Predictive coding: On the basis of prediction of change in the video sequence, the codec transmits only that portion of the frame that has changed.

    To get a good quality image, combinations of all the three techniques are used in a codec. Data transmission rate (the transmission speed of Channel) is another factor that affects the video quality, since compression ratio depends on the transmission speed.
     

    18. What are FCIF/QCIF?

                    FCIF/QCIF is the standards adopted by the International Telecommunication Union for transmission of video frames over the communication channel. FCIF stands for Fully Common Intermediate Frame, QCIF stands for Quarter Common Intermediate Format (QCIF) as videoconferencing standards.
     

    19. What is leased Line?

                    A leased line is a dedicated data pipe between two locations. It can be a four-core telephone line with the capability of transmitting 64 KBPS video traffic or a fractional T1 (E1) for any speed less than 1.544 MBPS. A leased line is expensive because the rent is fixed and not based on utilization.
     

    20. Explain Multipoint Conference Server (MCS) and its functions?

                    Multipoint Conference Server acts as a switching device, connecting multiple sites at the same time to become part of same conference. It also provides facility to run multiple conferences with varying data rates, to operate in parallel over one network. The digital video signals from various Codecs are fed to the MCS, which is controlled through a workstation, (commonly a PC) to monitor and control various conferences. Accounting and scheduling related jobs are done through the workstation.

                    Typically, one MCS is capable of switching across six different sites, and can be expanded upto 28 sites by adding extra cards. Several MCS can be cascaded together to provide switching capabilities across more number of sites. Since the MCS acts as the central hub which switches across different conferences, it must operate as per the ITU standard to connect with other MCS (H.331 - ITU standard of translating audio-visual information between MCS).

                    An important consideration for MCS is the switching time between the conference sites and the support for the ITU standard. Most MCS take 2-5 seconds for switching. It is an expensive device and is used mostly by the private and public service providers for connecting national and international studios.
     

    21. What do your mean by MBone?

                Virtual Multicast Backbone on the Internet (MBone) has opened wide possibilities of real-time interactive videoconferencing over Internet. In this scheme, the host is not required to do replication of the video-data packets for each intended receiver. The host has to forward video-data packet with the specific group address. Group addressing, it is basically multicast addressing scheme and supports hardware, which has made the multiparty conferencing independent of the number of recipients. This results in better CPU utilization of the host computer and improvement in network performance.
     

    22. What is ISDN?

                    ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. It is a communication protocol defined by CCITT/ITU-TSS for telephone network to carry data, voice and other sources. ISDN is delivered from a digital switch through two types of user interfaces: the Basic Rate Interface (BRI) and the Primary Rate Interface (PRI). Each consists of two numbers of 64Kbps bearer or B channels, coupled with one data, or D channel. B channels are 64Kbps clear-channel connections, and can be used for dial-up voice and data connections. The D channel is defined as a packet-switched call set-up and signaling connection shared by all users of ISDN.

    Basic Rate Interface is defined as two 64Kbps Bearer (B) channels and one 16 KBPS Data (D) channel that carries both call set-up and users data packets across the network. The BRI interface is also referred as a 2B+d connection. BRI can carry a wide and flexible range of communications. A single BRI can carry two simultaneous voice or data conversations (to the same or different locations).

    Primary Rate Interface or PRI in Europe and Asia is defined as thirty 64Kbps-bearer channels and one 64Kbps D channel thus 30B+D. Because transmission standard differ slightly the PRI in United States consist of twenty-three 64Kbps bearer channels and one 64Kbps Data (D) channel, or 23B+D connection.23B+D.
     

    23. What are NT1 and TA in ISDN circuit?

                    The Network Termination 1 or NT1 provides the physical and electrical termination of the twisted pair coming from the phone company's central office. The NT1 also converts the 2 wire twisted pair connection into 8 wire distribution system in user premises. This provides a standard interface for ISDN terminal equipment. Any terminal equipment designed to meet the ISDN standard can plug into this interface by using a standard 8-pin RJ-45 connector. The NT1 also provides remote diagnostic capabilities to allow central office (Telephone Exchange) to perform centralized fault isolation.

    The Terminal Adapter or TA is the interfacing device for using ISDN lines for data. It is generally placed after the NT1 in customer premises and the data transfer equipment can be connected to ISDN channel through it. Some ISDN terminal adapters have built-in NT1 for the means of simpler and reliable installation. In case of voice transmission ISDN telephones can be directly plugged to the NT1. Some TA's have additional S/T port in which user can plug any additional ISDN voice or data terminals.
     

    24. What is Continuous Presence Videoconferencing?

                    Current standards complaints Multipoint Conference Server (MCS) systems supports Switched Presence of conferences in which all the participants of the conference receive the same image. The image sent to the participants is selected by voice switching or by a conference chair. The visual cues of the other participants are lost and the participants have no control over the image they are receiving. Further all participants must communicate at the lowest transmission rate supported by one of the participants. If one participant's terminal equipment support 64Kbps then all are restricted to this transmission speed.

    In Continuous Presence Videoconferencing, MCS allows multiple participants in a videoconference to view the other participants simultaneously. For example if from site 1 X is delivering lecture and the students are attending lecture from SITE-2, SITE-3, SITE-4, SITE-5 through continuous presence videoconferencing X can view all the four classes.

    Although it is difficult to view the details of the individual students due to the size at which the each class must be displayed. The image in Continuous presence conference is displayed in "Hollywood Squares" fashion where each person's image is displayed in a rectangular frames and not in overlapping manner. Restricting the images to rectangular frames and not permitting them to overlap limits the number of user's which a participant can practically view. Two major problem with such a system is that all the participants' view the same combined image that is typically out of their control to change, and currently MCS that support continuous presence videoconferencing is working on proprietary protocols.

    There is another concept which is coming known as the Personal Presence Multipoint conference which will overcome the limitations of current Multipoint approaches, allowing conferences to dynamically choose which image they receive as well as controlling how they receive the real time image.
     

    25. Whom should you contact for booking Videoconferencing?

                    Please call Videoconferencing Division, at 91-11-24364821 for any query and for booking your conference click in online booking or send us a mail at "vc-delhi@nic.in"


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