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Telcos broaden the range for managed telepresence

February 12, 2008 | Chris Payatagool

Ovum logo.jpgBy Lucy Hipperson, David Molony

Telcos broaden the range for managed telepresence

This year is set to be the year of telepresence as a managed service.

There's still argument about whether telepresence is high-end HD videoconferencing, or something quite new; an 'immersive' meeting place in which business can be done in a way traditional videoconferencing couldn't.

But the potential is there to drive a new revenue stream for service providers, and for enterprises to consolidate their collaborative working programmes across the organisation, from boardroom to shopfloor.

With many telcos now beginning to offer telepresence as a managed service within their product portfolios the market is looking to decide where telepresence sits within telecoms organisations and how telcos should provide such services.

With telcos positioning telepresence as a managed service the question then is what can they do to differentiate their service from the others.

Comment: A number of carriers have already launched telepresence but many still offer telepresence on a wholesale basis and are yet to establish a managed service wrap around it.

Telcos are faced with the dilemma as to where to sell their solutions within their service portfolio. Should this be within the video conferencing arm? Some vendors are not keen on this because they want to differentiate telepresence as a high quality service, and set it apart from previously poor quality videoconferencing. Or do telcos sell it as a managed service within their global operations?

AT&T was prominent in the launch of Cisco TelePresence in October 2006 and is promising a managed service this year which will include bridging, hosting and interoperability features.

BT has chosen to offer telepresence through its Global Services arm. BT, which has chosen to lead with Cisco TelePresence (although it will support other vendor systems), is promoting telepresence as part of its unified communications (UC) solution. BT is the first to articulate a UC and collaborative working programme including telepresence, but its package is a work in progress: there's no specific verticals marketing approach yet (vendors have developed theirs), and the service management approach is mixed; BT Conferencing will continue to offer standard videoconferencing through the BT network, and will call in BTGS support when a corporate requirement looks like it might put a strain on it.

Meanwhile, KPN, which already combines its video conferencing solutions in its global managed services portfolio, has chosen Tandberg and Polycom to provide its Telepresence solution and offers these as part of its global managed services portfolio, allowing greater interoperability with existing video conferencing solutions, according to the operator. KPN is the first telco that has chosen explicitly not to support Cisco TelePresence.

Cisco Telepresence adds limited scope to telcos' existing videoconferencing portfolio because as yet there is limited interoperability. Instead, Telepresence sits as a standalone solution within their portfolios.

Teliris' VirtuaLive solution and Hewlett-Packard's HP Halo are fully managed solutions offered by vendors which have led the way in providing a managed service. Both service providers maintain their own MPLS-based global network dedicated to their customers' proprietary telepresence systems.

Currently both vendors provide not only the CPE, but also a number of levels of services on top of that. For example; professional and consultative services, network management, SLAs for network availability, concierge services, collaborative features such as touch-panel meeting controls, recording and webcasting, encryption, virtual whiteboard and video editing.

We believe that telecoms network operators are able to offer a competitive managed solution. They have key strengths in areas where they can add value to telepresence including:

* Network Management - As telcos already have the infrastructure to provide either a dedicated network or a shared network to accommodate Telepresence. Telepresence is a high quality service which cannot tolerate latency and interruption in the video call. Telecoms operators have the means and the experience in establishing end-to-end SLAs for managed services and can therefore apply them to Telepresence.

* Dynamic bandwidth services - Telepresence is a bandwidth intensive application and dynamic bandwidth is a tool whereby operators can manage and control bandwidth usage by the end user, enabling innovative cost models.

* Utilisation monitoring and billing tools - By being able to monitor utilisation end users can monitor productivity and costs. This also helps end users monitor the return on investment.

* Collaboration and unified communications - Telepresence can also be presented as a UC tool.

* Professional services- Many telcos now provide a consultative service for large customers with customised projects built to meet the end users' needs. This suits Telepresence as customers have different needs and expectations for the service.

Recent network testing of Cisco TelePresence by Verizon Business in Europe provides possibly the best example of why enterprises should be looking to telcos for a managed solution. Verizon Business has produced a detailed set of managed bandwidth options to accommodate telepresence in a shared network with other communications services. The operator is promising dynamic bandwidth tools later in the year so networks can be instantly and temporarily beefed up for telepresence sessions.

The Ovum report 'Telepresence: The Cisco effect' will be available later this month.

[via ovum]

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