Whether you are an enterprise user for IP Telephony or a home user of Internet broadband, there is one thing that you ought to consider – Adding Video to your communication needs. And what better way to do that than IP Video Phones? In this article, we explore one such video phone – Grandstream GXV3140 IP Multimedia Video Phone.
Video adds a lot to a conversation – that’s just the reason why most of the enterprises have gone for video conferencing systems. But the video conferencing systems are more suitable for group video conferencing sessions and is very expensive. Now with IP Telephony becoming popular, has the IP Video Phone emerged as an easy and affordable way to see and talk to each other? What better medium to use than the IP Networks and the Internet, which are all pervasive!
Grandstream GXV3140 is one such IP Video Phone (that is available in India) which allows users to connect to the computer network / Internet over broadband/ Internet Leased Lines to see and talk to each other using the inbuilt video camera (1.3 Mega Pixel, CMOS, Privacy Shutter – to turn off video when audio calls are sufficient) and a sufficiently large screen (4.3″ Digital TFT Colour LCD Monitor which is attached to the phone).
But here’s the catch: For enterprises, you need to have a computer network in place (Cat6 cables, Switches, RJ-45 connections etc) and you also need an IP PBX (IP Telephony server, from Grandstream or any other vendor supporting SIP and video call) to register all the phones and provide a centralized control, numbering and switching mechanism.
For individual/ residential users, you may need an high speed broadband connection (preferably with an unlimited plan as video calls take more bandwidth) and the same model of Grandstream Phone (GXV3140) at the remote end with Internet connection.
In both the above cases, you cannot add PSTN Trunk Lines (BSNL FXO Line, etc) directly to the Phone. You need an IP PBX (IP Telephony Server) with appropriate FXO/ PRI ports to dial to the local/ STD numbers. Without the IP PBX, you can only call from one IP Video Phone to another IP Video Phone (Or normal SIP based IP Phones).
Even for calling between the IP Video Phones, you need internationally recognizable phone numbers. Fortunately, this model of Grandstream Video Phone (GXV3140) comes with a service called IPVideoTalk which basically means that if you buy ‘n’ number of GXV3140 video phones and connect it to the Internet, Grandstream will provide ‘n’ number of unique IPVideoTalk phone numbers to each video phone that is valid across the globe. Basically, Grandstream maintains these numbers in their servers (for this particular model) and hence you can call from one phone to any phone of the same model anywhere in the world using the unique IPVideoTalk Number over the Internet.
But even with the above mentioned limitation, the Video Phone option is still attractive because,
1. The video phones come as a low cost alternative to video conferencing systems (personal – one to one communications) and thus making the conversations more appealing and meaningful while reducing traveling costs and the fatigue due to the same to meet people in different locations.
2. The video phones are very useful to see and talk to relatives/ children settled abroad are there are no recurring costs for video calls over Internet (if you have an unlimited bandwidth plan) and its very simple to use (as you need to just lift the receiver and dial a number) making it attractive for elderly people who do not want to handle the more complicated PC’s etc. Even for enterprise users, you need not go to the video conferencing systems every time you need to make one-to-one video calls with personnel/ clients abroad.
3. Video is a crucial part of the Unified Communications strategy for any company and SIP is the present standard for all voice communications over IP, which means the integration of SIP based Video to the IP Telephony infrastructure will be easier in future.
4. When used along with an IP PBX (IP Telephony Server supporting SIP) and IP Surveillance Cameras supporting SIP, the output of the surveillance cameras can be viewed on the video phone screen itself.
5. If any of the professional video conferencing systems supports SIP, a video call could be established between the Grandstream GXV 3140 IP Video Phone and the Video Conferencing System using SIP protocol.
Some Compelling Features of the Grandstream GXV3140 IP Video Phone that makes it very interesting:
- The GVX3140 comes bundled with base IP Video phone, handset, phone cord, universal power cord (adapter may be required in India), Ethernet patch cord (for connecting to one of the modem’s RJ-45 switch port for Internet), phone stand (for fixing the phone over the desk at certain angles with wall mountable options.
- There is a two port mini-switch in the phone which (Network port for connecting to the network and PC port for connecting to the PC from the video phone) is very useful for enterprise applications where the single cable from the network switch to the desk could be now connected to the video phone and from the video phone, a patch cord connects to the PC. So, we are connecting two network devices with only one network port on the switch (the other port being on the phone).
- The display screen can show self video image or the video image of the remote end or both self and remote end using Picture In Picture (Actually the screen is divided in to two – one main and another small box on the side. The main screen is used to see the remote caller while the smaller PIP box, the self image could be displayed).
- There is a speaker phone which can be used without lifting the handset and there is a headset jack which allows you to connect any 3.5 mm based headsets). There is even an auto-pick up paging feature for the remote phones that can be configured over the Internet.
- A Three Party Video Conference can be done over the Internet or IP Network if the Grandstream GXV3140 Video phones are used at all the three places.
- H.264 Video Codec which gives industry standard compression to the video packets sent across the network in order to achieve a good quality at lower bandwidth is supported. A number of commonly used voice codes are also supported.
- The camera (attached over the monitor in the phone) can be separately tilted to manually adjust the viewing angle.
- There is an address book to store frequent calling numbers and even snapshots of the remote caller can be taken while on call to store in the address book.
- There are three screens (with six layouts) that can be toggled using a hard button and the settings in each of the screens (like clock, connection status, calender, information etc) can be individually configured for each. There is also a screen saver feature which allows some nice images to be displayed when the phone is not being used for some time.
- Three individual SIP accounts can be configured on the video phone (This may not be useful for calling within India as SIP account providers are not yet supported by the Government).
- RCA Audio/Video Jacks are provided in the video phones so that the video output can appear on a TV/ projector etc. But the camera is still on the phone, so this might be a little awkward during actual use). Perhaps it could be more useful to let the CEO (for example) address a group of gathering at a remote location.
- Normal IP Phone features like Do Not Disturb, Call Waiting, Call Hold, Call Forward, etc are supported on the Grandstream GXV3140 IP Video Phone.
- This phone supports a lot of multimedia features (in addition to the video calling) like displaying RSS feeds (News), Stock quotes, weather info etc on the screen, in-built web browser to browse websites, watch youtube videos over the Internet etc, Online photo sharing applications (Like Flickr support, etc), Internet Radio with a lot of pre-stored channels (or additional channels can be configured).
- To make the above multimedia applications more user friendly, the video phone also supports SD Cards (via an SD Card Slot) and USB based devices (Flash drives, USB based Keyboards, Mouse etc). To use multiple USB devices, a separate USB hub might have to be purchased from the market.
Amazon generally has good discounts on GXV 3140 – Click here to check the best price for Grandstream GXV 3140 IP Video Phone if you live in the United States.
IP Video Phones Vs 3G Cell Phones:
The IP Video Phones connect to the Internet using fixed broadband technologies. The advantage with broadband in India is, you can have unlimited Internet plans for a fixed price. So, you are not being billed for usage – That means, unlimited video calling between two GXV3140 video phones is possible with a fixed charge. There are variety of service providers and methods to provide broadband connections for Internet.
The 3G Cell Phones on the other hand is a mobile technology. It can be used anywhere (where ever 3G technology coverage is present) and requires a 3G enabled cell phone with front camera. There is only one service provider currently for 3G in India and the video call charges are on a per minute basis.