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BT, Cisco Launch Global Hosted Unified Communications Service


December 09, 2009

In an effort to broaden their longstanding relationship, British Telecommunications and Cisco Systems Inc. announced today that the companies are jointly launching a global “cloud”-based hosted IP unified communications service that will help businesses reduce their upfront investment costs and boost the adoption of UC.

 
Under the partnership, BT is working with Cisco to build the infrastructure for service delivery, company officials said. The service from BT’s Onevoice UCC portfolio will let businesses bring converged voice, mobile and data services to desktops company-wide using BT and Cisco’s cloud computing-based technologies.
 
“Cisco and BT are deepening our established collaboration today to introduce a truly transformational unified communications solution delivered through the cloud at a compelling price point,” Chris Dedicoat, president of Cisco Europe, said in a statement. “We believe this new hosted offering will help accelerate our combined ability to bring the benefits of unified communications to more customers globally.”
 
With it, Cisco can offer customers a utility-based, per-user pricing model to consume next generation UC services, Steve Slattery, vice president/general manager, IP communications business unit, Cisco, told unified communications in an interview.
 
The hosted IPT service from BT, which is now available in the U.K., will roll out to the United States and countries in Europe by mid 2010 and to the Middle East and Africa by early 2011, Ashling Kearns, senior marketing manager, BT, told unified communications.
 
This marks the first time that Cisco and BT have partnered to launch a global offering based on Cisco Hosted UC services.
 
The service will particularly be attractive to companies because of the down economy. Thanks to the current economic realities, there is a “new normal around the business model” where customers are searching for cost efficiencies and more “predictive ways to consume services,” Slattery said.
 
Cisco has seen an explosion in interest around hosted IP telephony, Slattery said. While current usage stands at less than 5 percent, Cisco predicts the growth to exceed 30 percent by 2013, he said.
 
“This is a win for Cisco and for BT in terms of how we scale this,” Slattery said. “It’s open in terms of how big it can be. Through the use of this new solution, we are delivering a rich collaboration experience.”
 
And analysts agree.
 
“The current macroeconomic climate favors hosted IP telephony,”Chris Barnard, European telecommunications and networking research director IDC, an analyst firm, said. “The service is based on an operating expenditure model and offers the flexibility, low risk, and cost control now required by companies facing an uncertain future.”
 
Kearns said the IP telephony service, which Cisco will build and operate, will help BT serve its current users, as well as broaden its international reach. And because BT can blend the hosted service with existing legacy and IP voice infrastructures, customers can realize immediate cost saving benefits, she said.
 
“We are building a roadmap with Cisco,” Kearns said. “It’s all about [offering] an insulated service for our customers. The service fits in well with our UCC strategy that some customers are on.”
 
Slattery called the partnership a “first step” for Cisco.
 
“This really gets us going down the right path in terms of building the right capability,” he said. “BT can help us define product requirements on an ongoing basis. There’s nothing like having a partner like BT to help us.”
 
Already, some users are seeing the benefits. One U.K. customer, National Health Service's national broadband network, has been using BT’s hosted IPT technology, which it calls N3 Hosted Voice Services. N3 connects more than 1.3 million U.K. health sector employees to offer free on-network calls and less expensive mobile phone connections between medical sites.
 
As a result, Dr. Inderjit Marok, practice head at Rotton Park Medical Center in Birmingham, said he is saving about 20 percent compared with his previous calling bills.


Amy Tierney is a Web editor for unified communications, covering business communications Her areas of focus include conferencing, SIP, Fax over IP, unified communications and telepresence. Amy also writes about education and healthcare technology, overseeing production of e-Newsletters on those topics as well as communications solutions and UC. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney




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