If you’re unclear about what Counterpath and Vidtel do, then that sentence probably left you scratching your head. Don't worry, I’ll explain. Counterpath makes software phones for your PC/Mac, iPhone and Android devices. Their leading software phone is Bria, and the company just recently released video calling features for the iPhone version. Now you might be asking, how does this differ from Skype, Facetime, or any of the other video calling services that are already available in the App Store?
Good question. With other video calling services, you’re limited to strictly that service or application. Facetime only works between Apple devices, and Skype users can only Skype with other Skype users, etc. This is not the case with Bria because it was built on open standards. Bria works with any SIP service provider (“network agnostic”), and its video calling feature should theoretically work with any SIP-based video phone (“device agnostic”). This means that I’m able to conduct a video call using my Polycom VVX 1500 with someone walking down the street using Bria on his or her iPhone. This is fantastic for video calls between two people, but what if I want to hold a video conference with multiple parties?
That’s where Vidtel comes in. Vidtel is an Internet video service provider that offers a network and device agnostic video conferencing service.
From the press release:
Vidtel’s MeetMe is a cloud-based service that enables any-to-any video conferencing between room-based systems, executive desktop video systems, PCs/Macs, smartphones and tablets using any combination of SIP, H.323, and other technologies.
Vidtel customers get a number or SIP address for a video conference bridge that they can dial into with any number of video phones. You can either pay for the video conference bridge per month (prices vary depending on maximum number of participants and whether you want HD or standard quality video) or simply pay per minute.
A real selling point for us is that you can use the bridge with people who aren’t even Vidtel customers. This includes people using SIP service providers. For example, OnSIP. We appreciate that Vidtel even went the extra mile and included interoperability with Google Talk.
We tested out MeetMe using video phones registered on the OnSIP network, and it worked flawlessly. Here’s an iPhone screencap of a MeetMe conference call between three people: one using Bria for iPhone, one using Bria for Mac, and one using a Polycom VVX 1500. Please excuse the "network quality issues" warning, as that is just a reflection of our questionable Internet in the New York City office.
And you know what the really cool thing about all this is? None of us had to do anything to get this working. As a service provider, we didn’t have to jump through hoops to make sure our OnSIP was compatible. As phone developers and manufacturers, Counterpath didn’t have to tweak Bria, and Polycom didn’t have to change any firmware on their VVX. Interoperability was there from the get-go.
I guess that just goes to show you that when companies build things adhering to open standards, really neat things can and will happen.