Web-based teleconferencing cuts the costs

Setting up a conference call at a purpose-built Web site will make this service cheaper and more flexible, says Conf-it

A Web-based audio conferencing system launched on Tuesday promises greater flexibility and ease of use for less cost. The system, from conferencing specialist Conf-it, replaces expensive and inflexible conference call systems, and uses no extra hardware or software. It uses a Web site to let the user set up and manage multiple conference calls from the desktop. Currently BT charges 22 pence (in the UK) per person per minute to the person or company hosting the conference call. Each member then has to pay the line costs for the call. Using Conf-it the charges are reduced to 17 pence (in the UK) per person per minute, but with no line cost charges because the system, a bridge supplied by Colt and housed in Switzerland, makes the calls to each member. Establishing a conference is a matter of going to the Web site and logging in. The user enters the names and numbers of the people who will attend and clicks on the "call all" button. From the Web page the user monitors the state of each connection and can see if anyone drops out. Reconnection is easy, as is bringing in other relevant members during the conference. Unlike traditional conferencing systems there is no necessity for each person to remember a slot time or enter phone and PIN numbers. "Ultimately Conf-it believes it's essential to be able to work from your desktop, laptop or mobile and conduct a business meeting," said Martin York, Conf-it's director of sales, adding that the solution "brings conferencing to the masses." There are other facilities that are currently offered such as a language translation facility and an operator-assisted option, where someone sets up and manages the call if the user can't get access to the Internet. Conf-it plans to add other features, including sub-conferences, integration into the Outlook address book, broadcasts and recording conferences for replay. Conf-it was established in February 2001 and claims to be the first instant phone conferencing service available globally.

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