Why is video interoperability a challenge?

Learn why video calls don't have the same level of interoperability as voice calls, and what challenges the lack of video interoperability presents for organizations.

Despite its growing popularity among businesses, video calling still has one fundamental weakness compared to audio calling -- it lacks interoperability similar to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). There is no universal dialing plan for video calls and not all video services connect to each other. The lack of video interoperability means call participants with different services will need to decide which one to use.

One audio calling conglomerate -- the Bell System -- existed from 1877 to 1984, making it the only source for remote audio communication. Everyone used the same service and phones, eliminating concerns about interoperability. Calling another phone was simple, since every house and business had a unique phone number. All it took to connect with someone through audio was looking up a name in the phone book and dialing the unique number.

When the audio monopoly broke up in 1984, the dialing system stayed in place and universal connectivity was undisturbed. No such unified system existed for video, making video interoperability an issue today. Video systems were developed by a few unrelated companies, with little to no agreements regarding video interoperability. Early on, systems only worked well with identical systems from the same company. You needed two systems to make a video call -- one for the meeting room and one for the person you wanted to call.

Today's cloud services have partially alleviated this problem by offering ways for guests to join a call. You can send a meeting invite to someone who has never used video, and that person can click a link to join the call from his or her device, often without having to create a free account. This ease of accessibility has opened video to an entirely new group of users.

But just having an easy-to-use service doesn't solve the interoperability problem caused by a lack of universal dialing plans. If two users want to connect, but have different preferences for apps, it's likely they'll each want to stick with their preferred service.

While some companies offer interoperability services to connect calls between various video vendors, there is no current momentum toward universal video interoperability. In an ideal world, an email address could serve as a video address in a PSTN-like fashion. Email is often thought of as a virtual address or online identification, so it would make sense to use it for video calling. Unfortunately, it seems that video providers don't see a business incentive in going beyond interoperability services to truly partner with competitors for universal dialing and video interoperability.

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