Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Videoconference Industry Booms FROM RUSSIA, WITH IMAGES

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Videoconference Industry Booms FROM RUSSIA, WITH IMAGES

Article excerpt

LENIN and Stalin would probably be dismayed! First American fast food, such as McDonald's, arrived in Moscow. And now, the global teleconference - an increasingly popular communication's practice in the industrial West - is being beamed right into the very heartland of the Soviet Union, thanks to a bastion of the American capitalist system, American Telephone & Telegraph Co.

Teleconferencing is the use of audio and video hookups between participants in different locations. The teleconferencing industry has been in the fast lane since the early 1980s, when its international market began to open up. Total industry revenues in 1984 were slightly under $250 million. Combined revenues are expected to reach $1 billion this year, up from $814 million last year, according to the International Teleconferencing Association.

Although audio conferences make up the biggest segment of total revenues, two-way videoconferencing is the fastest growing segment of the industry's business.

Last Friday, AT&T introduced the first operational international videoconferencing service between the United States and Soviet Union. Soviet communications officials talked with executives from AT&T using a crystal-clear video hookup between Moscow and New York. The videoconference represents "an important new communications alternative" to actually traveling the 4,700 mile distance between the two cities, says S.R. Willcoxon, the president of AT&T's international group.

This opportunity comes at a propitious moment for the Soviets. Moscow is expected to overhaul its investment laws soon to allow foreign ownership of companies within the Soviet Union.

AT&T is one of scores of companies involved in the international or domestic North American teleconferencing industry. Many of them are relatively unknown to the general public. MCI Communications Corporation and US Sprint, AT&T's main North American competitors in the long-distance telephone market, are also active in teleconferencing, and are expected to follow through with their own video hookups to the Soviet Union. …

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