Tandberg has introduced room-based telepresence package that it claims will integrate with existing videoconferencing gear, so that businesses can upgrade, without ditching their existing equipment.

Called Telepresence T-3, the gear consists of three 64-inch, high-definition monitors, high-definition speakers and microphones all connected in a free-standing unit that includes three tables for participants to sit at. The tables each have a 22-inch touch screen for controlling the system and for sharing documents during conferences.

The package would be installed in a room, and comes with lighting and blue, back-lit wall panels that are part of the package to enhance the images shot in the room. Tandberg is also announcing a set of services to evaluate customer sites, install the gear, and manage and maintain it after it is deployed.

The idea behind telepresence is that it projects such high-resolution, life-size images of participants in an environment that makes it seem that they are actually sitting across the table in the same room. Cameras are located so when participants look at the image of other participants, it seems they are looking them in the eye.

Backdrops, lighting and furniture are all standardised to further the impression that all the participants on the screen are sitting at the table.

Telepresence T-3 gives Tandberg a product for customised rooms rather than devices that can be dropped into any room, something it didn't have before, says Ira Weinstein, an analyst with Wainhouse Research.

The gear costs about $300,000 (£170,000) not including the backdrops and wall finishings, which cost another $39,000. That is roughly the same as what other vendors such as Cisco, HP, Polycom and Teleris charge, and the high overall price doesn't matter, Weinstein says. "When you get a solution like this, you don't count nickels and dimes," he says.

The Tandberg system is compatible with other vendors' gear that builds its products to the Session Initiation Protocol, H.323 and, via a gateway, H.320, Tandberg says.

Tandberg is also introducing Telepresence Server, a hardware blade with software that plugs into its MSE 8000 video bridge chassis. The server can manipulate images during conferences involving more than two sites to give customers five options for how to display them.

The system can show on all three screens just the person onsite that is talking and switch to another site when someone there starts talking via a feature called room-switched display.

The system can also show three tables from three sites, one on each screen, displaying those tables from which someone has most recently spoken. When someone new talks, that table is switched in. This is called a one-table display.

Smaller images of the sites that have not spoken recently can be superimposed over the bottom of either the room-switched or one-table displays. These are called room-switched continuous and one-table continuous displays.

Finally, Telepresence T-3 can show all participants from standard and HD equipped sites equal sized stacked up like Hollywood Squares.

Other vendors' gear can do some of these, but not all. "Everyone has a preference, and Tandberg lets you choose your compromise," Weinstein says. The server can integrate images from legacy videoconferncing systems - not just telepresence systems - and that is something no other vendor can do, he says.

Tandberg is also introducing three services: fulfilment, network and management. Fulfilment includes site assessment, project management and installation. Network services include providing a dedicated network that ensures quality of service to optimise images. And management services manage the gear after it is deployed and can include live help to resolve problems during conferences.

The server will be available in December and the services and Telepresence T-3 gear is available in the first quarter of 2009.