The realm of AV has grown to encompass a wide range of new technology. Here is a glossary to help you communicate your needs effectively. If you need to define a technical term not mentioned below, go to, which has an easy-to-use virtual encyclopedia of technical terminology.

  • T1 Line — One of several high-speed options for a hotel or convention center to connect its local network to the Internet. A T1 line has an upload and download speed of 1.54 Mbps (Mbps stands for millions of bits per second and is a measure of bandwidth, the total information flow over a given time on a telecommunications medium. Bandwidth is also measured in Kbps, thousands of bits per second; or Gbps, billions of bits per second.)

  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) — Another option for high-speed Internet access. DSL speeds can vary greatly, from as low as 128 Kbps to more than 7 Mbps. If your hotel offers DSL, make sure you know what speeds you are getting.

  • Ethernet — A high bandwidth local area network (LAN), and the most common network in hotels and convention facilities. It comes in speeds from 10 Mbps to one Gbps.

  • ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) — A digital telephone line that can be used to connect two points for voice, data, or video communications (most common). It is sold as BRI or PRI in most cases (see below).

  • PRI (Primary Rate Interface) — A bundle of 24 ISDN lines to make approximately 1.47 Mbps. This is commonly used for videoconferencing. It can be set up at any multiple of 128 Kbps to 1.47 Mbps.

  • BRI (Basic Rate ISDN) — A 128 Kbs ISDN Line or one-twelfth of a PRI.

  • H.320 — The standard for video on ISDN used for videoconferencing.

  • H.323 — Also used for conferencing, but over the Internet — not on ISDN. This is not as common.

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) — A system where all data between two systems is encrypted so that it can use the Internet but keep the information secure.

  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) — A common VPN standard.

  • Ipsec (IP Security) — A VPN standard that is more difficult to make work in hotels and conference centers.

Ken Pickle, CPCU, CMP, is manager, incentives and conferences, for Safeco Insurance Companies, Seattle.

Videoconferencing Basics

One of the immediate responses to the September 11th tragedies was “Can I conduct my meeting without traveling?” Of course one can — by using videoconferencing, which works particularly well for small groups, and is much more cost-effective than it was just a few years ago. A top-of-the-line system costs around $15,000 to install, and the required high-speed lines generally cost about $700 per month. If you can go with “talking heads” (not much action), then you can get by with a 384 Kbps system for roughly $200 per month.

Questions to Ask

  • Instead of asking a hotel “Do you have a T1 line?,” tell them how much dedicated bandwidth you need for your meeting, and ask if they can provide it.

  • Ask about guest room bandwidth. Even if you have 100 Mbps access in your room, the hotel may still be sending all the rooms out on a single T1 at 1.54 Mbps.

  • Find out if the facility has adequate backups if the server dies.

  • How automated in the setup? Is it plug in and go?

  • Is the technology integrated into the building, or will there be wires and cables everywhere?