Think Video Conferencing is Too Expensive to Deploy to All Your Desktop and Mobile Users? Think Again!

When it comes to mid- to large-scale full-featured video conferencing that includes full support for mobility, desktop, telepresence and conference rooms, you might be surprised just how affordable it is. With today’s advancements in technology and the increased scalability of video solutions, businesses can implement full-featured, enterprise-grade video collaboration for as low as a one-time charge of between $80 – $200* per user.

(This guest blog is written by Bob Romano (@RobertLRomano), vice president of video marketing at Avaya.)

This is a surprisingly affordable price for what most people have traditionally considered to be an expensive “executive-only” solution. The $80 – $200 per user range comes from analyzing actual deployments of Avaya’s Scopia conferencing system in multiple customer locations and from our own internal deployment at Avaya. Within Avaya, we are extremely heavy users of Scopia conferencing, and so the cost per user is approximately $160. When I say heavy users, I mean as a company of approximately 15,000 employees of which almost 10,000 have their own Scopia virtual meeting rooms, we are holding between 35,000 – 40,000 Scopia meetings per month with an average of 4 participants per video call. This means that 150,000 or so participants, internal and external, are attending Scopia meetings every month. Companies that use video less would see a lower cost per user.

When and how did video conferencing become so affordable? The best way to understand the cost is to analyze it on a cost-per-user basis. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to focus on a premises-based installation where customers buy and install a certain number of Scopia Elite MCU ports to support their user base. This scenario allows unlimited use of the system, in-house control and management and more of a fixed-cost model. However, it’s important to note that the Avaya Scopia solution is also available as a service offering from many Avaya partners if customers want an opex solution. If you’re more interested in the opex approach, we have a number of partners offering this service.

So let’s look at the details. We’ll first look at the price per “port” and resolutions used and then break that down to per-user pricing.

Price per port 

We sell port-based MCUs for customer installations of Scopia capability, so the question of “how much does Scopia cost?” depends on how many ports are needed to support a given user base and this depends on two key variables:

  • What mix of resolutions will be used, and
  • How heavily video is used by the user base

We can provide planning assumptions based on actual customer deployments (including Avaya’s) that can provide a very good estimate.

To calculate, we:

  • Take the list price of our MCU with the bundled software (and servers) to support Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile
  • Reduce it slightly to reflect approximate street prices
  • And then divide that by the number of ports on the MCU and applying a ratio of ports to users. 

To calculate the price per port we’ll use the average street price for a Scopia Elite 6140 MCU bundle. The Scopia Elite MCU supports resolutions from DVD quality (480p) up to the highest resolution available (1080p/60fps). For this exercise we’ll focus on a mix (90/10 ratio) of 480p and 720p as they are the most commonly used resolutions for a blend of desktop/mobile users and room systems.

The Scopia Elite 6140 MCU will support up to 160 ports of 480p or 80 ports of 720p or any combination of the two. For more capacity, simply add more Scopia Elite MCUs to the deployment.

  • 480p is typically used for desktop and mobile deployments because this is very good quality on smaller screens, is the best blend of quality vs. bandwidth and since many mobile devices and some PCs don’t yet support full 720p HD.
  • 720p is the best blend of quality vs. bandwidth for the larger screens used in room systems however users could certainly choose to use 1080p/30fps or even 1080p/60fps for their room systems.

This allows us to calculate a Scopia 480p port street price of around $1600 and a 720p port street price of less than $5,000. At the 90/10 ratio this yields an average price per port that is below $2,000, but we’ll use $2000 for the calculation purposes.

Price per user

Once we have the price per port, the second assumption is the number of users each port will support. In smaller organizations, the ratio will be lower (i.e.: in an organization of 10 users it is likely all 10 will be in a call together and you would need a 1:1 ratio; while in a much larger organization it could be as high as 20:1). It also depends on how heavily the users use the solution. We therefore recommend customers use a planning range of between 10:1 and 20:1. In Avaya the actual ratio is approximately 15:1 of users to ports, and we are seeing this ratio in many other customer deployments as well.

So this gives us the information we need to calculate our price per user. Below are three scenarios that calculate a price range based on the resolutions an organization chooses to use and how much the system is used. As you can see you can bring the price per user to well below $100.

  • Mixed resolution deployment – DVD quality to desktop/mobile and HD in the rooms The price per user ranges between $100 and $200 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This is how Avaya’s internal deployment is configured and as heavy users we use 1 port for every 15 users and our price is approximately $160 per user.
  • DVD resolution deployment – DVD quality to desktop/mobile and room system. The price per user ranges between $80 to $160 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This configuration is the most economical and appropriate for a predominately desktop/mobile deployment where occasionally room systems are included.
  • Full HD deployment – 720p for all desktop/mobile and room systems The price per user ranges between $250 to $500 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This configuration is appropriate for when the best quality is desired for both the desktop and room system users. As the capabilities increase on mobile platforms this option might be used more and more for very high quality to mobile users.

How is your company using or planning to use video? When you look at the calculations above, a one-time cost of $80 – 200 per user is extremely affordable. So, if you’re thinking you can’t afford company-wide full-featured desktop and mobile video collaboration, I say think again!

*Note: all pricing is based on approximate list prices as of August 2013 and subject to change without notice.