Cisco Systems and AT&T on Monday paired up to deliver a fully-managed Cisco TelePresence solution aimed at boosting sales of the top-shelf video conferencing solution and bringing together multi-national corporations through visual collaboration.
The offering, dubbed AT&T Telepresence Solution, is expected to be available later this year in 23 countries. More countries will be added in 2009, Cisco said. The offering falls in line with Cisco's recent focus on communication and collaboration as a cornerstone of business processes and combines the country's largest phone company with the world's largest networking vendor.
According to Cisco, early trials have already started with key customers. At the offset, sales teams from San Antonio-based AT&T and the San Jose, Calif.-based networking powerhouse will target U.S.-based multinational companies and some selected companies outside of the U.S.
The partnership is designed to grow the use of TelePresence technology within businesses and other organizations. Backing from AT&T will also help Cisco compete in an increasingly aggressive video conferencing market which includes Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Polycom, Tandberg and a host of others.
AT&T's Telepresence Solution will combine Cisco's TelePresence with AT&T's IP network and VPN capabilities enabling collaboration across industries like health care, high-tech, retail and government. The move opens up TelePresence video conferencing to be used between companies, suppliers and partners as opposed to just being used intra-company, as it has been until now.
Cisco's TelePresence was introduced in October 2006 and, while well known, has been viewed as often cost-prohibitive. According to Cisco, more than 500 TelePresence units have been shipped to date to more than 100 customers. The Cisco TelePresence 3000 solution, which lists for roughly $300,000, is sold as a small conference room with three high-definition screens. AT&T said it will make three-screen version available, along with Cisco TelePresence System 1000, a one-screen offering.
The new offering eliminates the need for users to buy TelePresence as a one-time purchase, but as a corporate telecommunications service with AT&T providing the TelePresence gear; installation; full monitoring and management of the application; network provisioning; and including AT&T VPN and transport; remote help desk service; and on-site equipment maintenance and repair. The expected cost of the service was not released Monday.
In a statement, Ronald Spears, AT&T group president of Global Business Solutions, said the pairing will enable companies to improve "business velocity" by letting them act fast and make better business decisions.
"Customers can take advantage of the power of the AT&T network and our expertise in providing world-class services to enjoy the multitude of benefits of this fully immersive collaboration technology," he said.
AT&T Telepresence Solution lets businesses interact and collaborate with others via video conferencing tools that display life-sized images in high-definition with spatial audio in specially designed environments. Both companies said TelePresence creates an immersive life-like experience, giving users the feeling that they're in the same room as remote participants regardless of their location. AT&T's new service using Cisco TelePresence will also feature a concierge service, which complements calendaring applications for scheduling a telephone-style interface to launch meetings with the push of a button.
AT&T said it will focus on developing industry specific telepresence applications. For example, in retail, users can collaborate in real-time with designers, merchants and manufactories to create and modify products and processes to ultimately speed up time-to-market and improve competitive positions without the time and added costs required for participants to travel to one location.
AT&T has also received the Cisco Powered TelePresence Connection Certification for its IP VPN service. The certification is based on industry standards for staffing, verification, processes and tools to ensure the network meets the quality of service, performance and reliability requirements for TelePresence applications.
Currently, Spears said, AT&T has 11 Cisco TelePresence sites set up in its own offices throughout the U.S. More are expected to be added globally in the coming year.
"We're already seeing tremendous value from the ability to bring our management team together for face to face meetings on a regular basis, even though they are scattered across the country," he said. "Not only are we saving time and expense associated with travel, but we are much more protective. When we implement the intercompany telepresence capability, we expect to quickly start using it to build closer relationships with our key customers throughout the world."
Martin De Beer, senior vice president of emerging technologies at Cisco said AT&T is already playing a critical role in delivering intercompany Cisco TelePresence to the more than 750-room worldwide footprint.
"AT&T is the first network provider of a complete intercompany solution based on our TelePresence system, using the IP network as a platform," he said.