BT to introduce cheap video calls

BT strikes deal with Silicon Valley's FVC.com for videoconferencing, with aim to replace business travel.

British Telecom is preparing to introduce Europe's first high-quality, low-cost videoconferencing service in partnership with Silicon Valley startup FVC.com.

Speaking at the Etre conference in Monaco, FVC chief Ralph Ungermann told the Financial Times that the service will run over high-speed lines using ATM -- a backbone Internet technology -- and may also use BT's recently introduced DSL service. DSL allows high-speed data transmission over ordinary copper telephone lines.

The services will include scheduled or spontaneous video calls, and could be accessed either through a PC or a videoconferencing suite, according to reports. The system could also work with conventional email to attach video clips to electronic messages.

The companies hope long-distance video could replace a significant amount of business travel -- up to 20 percent by 2007 -- by making business meetings more efficient.

BT representatives confirmed the reports, and said an official announcement is expected Thursday.

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