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For AV Opportunities from Fiber Growth, Look to Corporate Users

Dec 13, 2006 8:00 AM, By John McKeon

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The highly publicized national rollout of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure could create a major opportunity for professional AV integrators, but the opportunity may be overlooked if industry pros pay too much attention to the expanding battle over residential triple-play services.

That’s the view of Rich Mavrogeanes, CEO of VBrick Systems, who spoke with AV Over Fiber during the recent Government Video Expo in Washington, D.C.

Telcos are leading the move to connect fiber-optic lines to individual homes and places of business, and at the same time battling off efforts by cable and satellite operators to take over residential telephony. But this battle isn’t where the action is for the pro AV community, Mavrogeanes says. For one thing, when a cable company persuades a consumer to acquire telephony services over cable, neither a new customer nor a new piece of business is actually being created. An existing business relationship is merely changing hands, Mavrogeanes notes.

“Once you have content, whether one person views it or a 1,000 people view it, you make about the same money. The people who make the money are the people who put in the head end, the coding equipment, the video on demand service, the control structures. So I build one head end for an entire city, and then I’m done.

“How many cities are there? How many carriers are there? You could count them on a limited number of hands,” Mavrogeanes says. “Let’s contrast that to corporate. How many businesses are there, small, medium and large? It wouldn’t shock me if there are a million businesses, and every business has an independent need.”

Mavrogeanes cites a tax counseling service that has installed a relatively inexpensive VBrick device. “They can now sit in their office and do live audio, video, and multimedia, with PowerPoint slides, web pages, and all that, directly to their client’s office to advise them and give them information. So which is the bigger opportunity? Corporate, serving these guys? Or serving the telcos?”

The opportunity becomes even more exciting, Mavrogeanes adds, when AV professionals realize that dramatic expansion of bandwidth, such as that promised by fiber rollouts, fundamentally changes what they can offer their clients.

“Having more infrastructure allows the AV professional to leverage that higher bandwidth to deliver more AV service to more people,” he says.

One key step is to stop thinking of video and videoconferencing in the old, low-bandwidth terms. “Video no longer has to be one-way, it can be two-way,” Mavrogeanes says. “You can certainly deploy standard-definition, broadcast-quality video without the legacy videoconference equipment. Being able to deploy two-way broadcast-quality video really changes things, and that’s an area where I think AV professionals can really excel.”

What may keep some AV integrators from seizing this opportunity, he says, is a failure of imagination. The integrator consulting with a client may say, “Great, we want to put displays in this room, and the AV integrator doesn’t say, you know, this can be replicated at all of your branch offices,” Mavrogeanes says. “They don’t necessarily suggest that because they often don’t know it’s possible.”

What’s needed, he explains, is a new definition of the AV integrator. “If the AV professional by definition is the guy who hooks up the projector in the conference room, he’s gone. His days are numbered. Today the AV professional is the one who seeks to deliver audio and video over any distance. That distance could be 6ft., or it could be to China from Washington.”

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