Freshfields' conference winner

Fennell Betson reports

Freshfields took over four years and examined 17 systems before choosing the video conferencing system it has installed in London and six European offices.

"We had a good look around and chose the Sony system after a three-month trial," says the firm's communications manager David Enders.

The City firm is believed to be the first of the big UK international firms to take this step. Enders says the aim is to have video conferencing as part of the communications infrastructure of the firm.

He sees three main user groups. The first of these is at a corporate level between sen-ior partners and the managing partners of the overseas offices, although he says others will also use it for these purposes.

Regular specialist groups in different locations are important users. The system can also be used for conferences between clients and lawyers in overseas offices.

Enders says the firm is keen to extend it to other locations and this will be done as soon as ISDN lines become available, especially in the Far East.

The Sony Trinicom system, supplied by the MarCom Group, was chosen for quality and cost, says Enders. Ease of use was also essential. "Five-10 minutes of training is enough for most people," he says. Designed for up to six people, it can handle sessions involving up to 20 people.

The basic standard picture requires two ISDN lines, but the quality can be improved by increasing the number of lines. "The cost of an hour's conference with the Paris office using two lines is u45," Enders says. The firm uses Mercury lines.

Freshfields is not disclosing its video conferencing spend. Over the four year search period, systems costs fell heavily.