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Solid Energy tunes in to video conferencing

27 January 2004


Solid Energy tunes in to video conferencing

Coal supplier Solid Energy expects to substantially reduce operating costs by using video conferencing to hold virtual meetings.

The solution could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars a year in travel costs and lost working hours when staff are travelling to and from meetings.

The State-owned enterprise operates coal mines in both the North and South Islands, including Ohai in Southland, Greymouth, Westport and Huntly regions, and has its head office in Christchurch.

Information Services Manager Christine Dormaar says there is huge potential for increased inter-site video communications, remote training programmes and international mining consultants joining meetings via video conference links instead of having to travel to New Zealand.

Ms Dormaar says Polycom video conferencing hardware operating over Telecom’s IP Network were installed at five Solid Energy sites. Christchurch acts as a bridging unit, allowing four sites including external parties via ISDN to connect simultaneously.

She says the video conferencing solution only became viable after Solid Energy switched from a Frame Relay data network to Telecom’s IP Network, which offers higher bandwidth.

“We had looked at video conferencing about six years ago but scrapped it due to the poor quality – a result of poor early technology and low bandwidth to our sites.

“Now we have guaranteed connection speeds with quality of service and prioritisation, and for us that was the key. Telecom’s IP Network provides us with more bandwidth for about the same cost as our old data network.

“We had technical staff and senior management spending a day travelling just to attend a two-hour meeting. Video conferencing has definitely improved our productivity.”

She says the solution also means staff can make fewer trips by road between Christchurch and the West Coast during winter, when roads can be treacherous.

Geologists and engineers are able to view high-resolution mine maps and models using a data projector connected to the video conferencing equipment during the sessions.

She says while video conferencing will never totally negate the need for face-to-face meetings, video conferencing “is making our world a smaller place and that’s a benefit for any business”.


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