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One of Cisco's top business partners these days is BT, and central to that partnership is TelePresence, which BT took over a large demonstration suite to promote.
TelePresence is Cisco's high-definition, top-end videoconferencing system. It has provoked a lot of interest within BT — partly, cynics say, because customers often need a network upgrade to run it. A typical TelePresence call consumes around 15Mbps of bandwidth.
One year after launch, TelePresence remains expensive, with a list price of £150,000 per site for the full three-screen product plus installation.
Sales have been limited. Just 24 units have been sold in Europe, Cisco admitted during the event, and only 16 companies globally — eight of which sell on the product in some way — have been revealed as customers.
Steve Masters, head of global convergence propositions for BT's Global Services division said: "The market has been light on delivery. It [TelePresence] has not taken off to the expectations of the market."
Simon Farr, head of unified communications and TelePresence for BT Global Services added: "From here until 2010, that is the big take-up time."
Cisco said that one primary-care trust in Scotland — which was not named — is piloting a remote doctor service using the technology. Because many of its residents live a considerable distance from their nearest GP, the trust is evaluating whether it can assess patients remotely. If successful, the TelePresence unit could be fitted with basic medical equipment.
Long term, Cisco wants to lower the price of the equipment to enable greater take-up, and it is trying to encourage the resale of TelePresence as a service.
Office provider Regis has started on that track, and is offering TelePresence calls by the hour from some of its premises.
Cisco in December said it had added support for additional protocols in the TelePresence offering so customers could videoconference with people using other vendors' equipment.
But speaking to reporters in Barcelona, Cisco's president for Europe, Chris Dedicoat, was dismissive of the prospect, saying a cross-vendor conferencing call would lead to a degradation in the quality of the call and the general experience of the technology.