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Telepresence at Tata, An Update With the Head of the Americas, Dave Ryan

September 21, 2011 | Howard Lichtman
Telepresence Options Publisher Howard Lichtman and Tata's Dave Ryan

Telepresence Options publisher Howard Lichtman had the opportunity recently to sit down with Dave Ryan  Senior Vice President & Americas Regional Head at Tata Communications, a global telecommunications carrier that provides managed telepresence services, a telepresence exchange for enterprise customers and runs the world's largest network of publicly available multi-screen, multi-codec telepresence rooms using Cisco TelePresence solutions.  Dave Ryan was Tata's first employee in America in 2004 and has directed the growth of what has become the company's largest market outside of India with a CAGR of 38%!  Dave discusses  Tata's strategy in telepresence and visual collaboration, Tata's growing network of publicly available telepresence rooms, and the company's global expansion.

First, some background: Tata Communications is the telecommunications arm of India's Tata Group, a 140 year old multinational conglomerate of 100 operating companies in 7 sectors on 6 continents with 395,000 employees doing over $67 billion a year in annual revenue.  The company's interests are diverse: They own businesses ranging from Land Rover to Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces to Tetley Tea. 

Tata Communications is the company's telecommunications arm.  The company's network connects more than 240 countries across 400 points of presence with a global network that spans 210,000 route km of terrestrial and submarine fiber optic cable - 25% of the world's lit fiber optic capacity.  The company moves 1,600 petabits of IP traffic every month. 
tata_global_network.jpgGlobal footprint of Tata's terrestrial and submarine cable fiber optic network

Tata Communications has made one of the largest investments in telepresence and visual collaboration in the telecommunications industry.  The company provides network and managed services including reservations, help desk, and exchange for enterprise clients running Cisco TelePresence including multi-screen, multi-codec group systems. 

A Six Seat Tata Publicly Available Cisco TelePresence System in a Starwood Hotel

Telepresence Exchange is a term for connecting the IP networks of different telepresence communities (carrier, service provider and enterprise/government) so that the connected organizations can connect with each other at high speeds and quality securely while maintaining the lines of sight, spacial acoustics, and ease-of-use that have come to characterize telepresence.    Tata runs an exchange that connects their enterprise customers and has lead the industry in connecting their exchange environment with exchange environments and QoS networks run by other carriers and managed service providers including: BT Conferencing, Cisco, Glowpoint, Orange Business Services, SprintTelefonica, Telstra, and  Verizon among others.

A Tata Visualization of Their Telepresence Community and Eco System

As a value add and separate business the company has invested in creating a network of publicly available Cisco TelePresence Rooms primarily in business class hotels (Tata Taj and Starwood properties) but also with strategic partners like the Confederation of Indian Industry which operates four publicly available rooms in India.  The cost per hour range from $299 - $899 depending on the number of seats but average around $500 per hour for a six seat room before volume or other discounts. The rooms are used primarily by both corporate customers that want to extend their internal telepresence networks to cities where they don't have a capability and also organizations that don't have telepresence at all.  The rooms are occasionally booked for off-beat functions like Doobie Brothers concerts. The network currently comprises 33 public rooms in 17 countries. 

Tata's Network of publicly available multi-screen, multi-codec telepresence rooms is the largest in the world with 33 public rooms in 17 Countries. 

Interview with Dave Ryan, SVP and Head of the Americas

HSL: Where do you see telepresence and visual collaboration going in the next couple of years?

Dave Ryan: My sense is that telepresence is just starting to take off.   IDC is predicting an 18% growth rate from this year over the next 4-5 years.  The major corporations that have adopted the technology or have invested in the technology are just starting to move the capability from the executive suite to the mainstream part of their businesses. We use it extensively internally and the room we have here in Herndon is booked essentially nonstop and it's not an executive thing anymore.  It's how we do business and it fits because we are in every country and in every business sector from Mumbai to Hong Kong to Singapore to London to the Middle East. We rely heavily on it and it is just starting to get adopted throughout the Fortune 2000.  I think the coming explosion is from an internal consumption to a B-to-B consumption. As an example DLA Piper is using our public rooms to do depositions globally and our exchange to connect with their customers and to me the next step is driving it into the supply chain of the corporations so its their customers and suppliers that are coming together in a global network that is universally accessible.

HSL:  What is the thumbnail on Tata's growing telepresence exchange?

Dave Ryan: We are one of the few players that have a full suite of telepresence capabilities.  We do have the network but telepresence for us is really about the service layer: professional services, concierge services for meeting support, and the exchange is kind of like the old fashioned AT&T operator that makes the connections.  When PLTD in the Philippines build a network and have a half dozen telepresence rooms they need to connect to the rest of the world and what we try to do through our telepresence exchange business is provide interconnections to all those different players.  Some are our partners... Some our our competitors and some are publicly available locations. We have built a global capability... we are in the Americas.. Europe... Asia... and having regional geographic diversity positions us uniquely among our competition.

HSL:  What is Tata doing to drive the growth of Inter-company telepresence?

Dave Ryan: Our thought is to open it up for all to come.  It isn't tied to our network.. it isn't tied to our data centers... We are creating an open exchange where we are leveraging our global carrier partners.. Etisalat... PLDT... Neotel.. that have only invested in their regions but now have the ability to seamlessly connect through our exchange to any other telepresence room that could be on BT's network or Orange's network or our network... It could be an AT&T public room or one of our public rooms... Our vision is to enable any-to-any telepresence connectivity through an open exchange and we've really pushed and partnered with the Verizons and the Telefonicas and the Oranges... The reality is that their are only half a dozen carriers that have really invested in supporting telepresence and now we can reach 75% of the exchange connected rooms on those networks.  So we are making this available to the smaller regional or national carriers that might only have a single public room or a couple of key enterprise customers that want to connect to their partners around the world.. Our vision is to make it easy for these regional carriers to connect to us and to provide the transport because one of the keys to cutting the cost out globally is having the capacity.  When you look at connecting a room in South Africa to New York City the fact that we own that infrastructure on our cable means that we can enable those calls because we can provide a flexible pricing structure vs. the cost of nailing up a DS3 or another circuit specific to that session which gives us a tremendous advantage when you look at this globally.

HSL:  How is the growth of the publicly available telepresence network growing. 

Dave Ryan: The network continues to grow.  We have 33 rooms in 17 countries and we will be adding another dozen over the next year. The public rooms has worked for us and we have locations ranging from Johannesburg, South Africa to India where the other meeting option is a 14, 15, or even 16 hour airplane flight. We don't look at the public room business as a stand alone business.  It works because we have woven it into the fabric of our offering as an extension of the B-to-B [Business-to-Business] exchange. Many of our customer successes have been as a result of our public room reach because it gives them a capability in every major global city.  We are looking at how the public rooms are going to fit into the next phase of visual collaboration.. desk top.. mobile..and still trying to develop a long term vision for the rooms.

HSL:  We've been seeing enterprise customers move from sticking their toes in the water to jack knives and cannon balls.. Are you seeing the same thing?

Dave Ryan: Yes.  We are starting to see it...  Peugeot in the automotive industry is an example.  We had some wins with them and now we are helping them go into their supply chain to improve their ability to collaborate.  We are starting to talk with some of the Detroit based companies that have large supply and demand chains as well.  There is definitely a movement in certain verticals with automotive being one of them where they are moving it down to their partners, customers, and suppliers. It is an explosion that hasn't gone off yet but is just starting to.  I think the piece that is missing is the public awareness.. Moving the capability from the executive suite to enable all levels of an organization that then realize they can communicate with the world. 

HSL:  Thanks for your time!  

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