May 24, 2011 / 6:24 PM / in 7 years

Videoconference firms eye Iceland ash cloud boost

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Video communications companies expect air travel bans stemming from a volcano eruption in Iceland to boost demand in a similar way, or even more, than last year.

On Tuesday an ash cloud from a volcano on Iceland shut down flights in northern Britain and elsewhere in north Europe and was heading to Germany.

An Icelandic volcano eruption last year led to blanket no fly zones being imposed by aviation authorities, stranding 10 million passengers and boosting takeup of video communications among enterprises across Europe.

“Every time there is major disruption, interest in remote working and unified communications ramps up. Each time ... enquiries regarding our flexible working technology rise by up to 30 percent,” said Lee Shorten, managing director for Britain and Ireland at Avaya.

Logitech’s videoconferencing unit Lifesize saw last year demo scheduling over the volcano eruption period and following weeks increasing by 22 percent in Britain, and its country manager said he expects to see similar boost this year.

LifeSize said it would offer free video conferencing from London to British companies restricted by the ash cloud, and Hewlett-Packard said it would open its telepresence rooms in 36 countries for free use for its clients.

Venture-backed Vidyo, whose software platform is used by HP and Google among others, said it saw an uptick of over 25 percent in enquiries during last year’s ash cloud.

“Vidyo is experiencing similar activity this year from companies with stranded executives who aren’t letting ash disrupt their business,” said its general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Eric Le Guiniec.

Telecoms distributor Westcon said the demand boost could be bigger this year than in 2010.

“This year’s ash cloud event could have a much bigger impact on the market than last year,” said David Grant, Senior Vice President for Europe. “This is not the first time it’s impacted travel, the ash cloud and its disruption to businesses is still fresh in the minds of travelers.”

Editing by Jon Loades-Carter

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