Videoconferencing could be offered to AT&T customers across the US, using television-videophone technology developed by 3Com, according to reports.
But demand for videoconferencing services among consumers in the US is currently low according to research. However, analysts said on Monday that they expect demand to rise over the next few years.
AT&T and Tele-Communications (TCI), which it agreed to acquire in June, are reportedly considering using 3Com hardware to provide videoconferencing, ecommerce and other advanced communications services to telephone subscribers.
Both AT&T and 3Com separately refused to comment on the report.
The first videotelephony offering from AT&T was demonstrated in 1964, but the technology has never broken into the mainstream consumer market, according to analysts.
"Videophones have failed to happen now for 30 years," said Jim Pehmune, an analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston. "On the face of it, [the videophone service] is a little hard to understand. This is a business AT&T has toyed with and not been able to do anything with."
Almost one-third of PC owning households in the US are interested in using videophones at home, according to a study published earlier this year by researchers at IDC.
Videophones are a technology that has kept resurfacing, but with interest among consumers at an all-time high, now could be a good time to start thinking about launching a consumer service, according to Jeannette Noyes, an analyst at IDC.
"It will probably be three years until they plan to launch videoconferencing, but that's not to say there isn't some interest today," said Noyes. "However, the price and quality today mean that it is primarily a niche thing."
AT&T has tried an ISDN based videoconferencing service in the US, but its success has been hampered by the low number of ISDN users in the country, and the high price of available services, said Noyes.
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