AT&T eyes telepresence in Asia

Communications giant says it will invest in more room and bigger pipes to support growing telepresence demand in region.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--AT&T has unveiled plans to ramp up its telepresence facilities and is offering a new mobility management service in the Asean region.

The U.S. communications company said in a briefing here Thursday that this decision was based on "significant growth" in its network applications services last year. These cover products such as telepresence and WAN acceleration, where demand for the latter has also been impacted by high bandwidth use for telepresence applications, AT&T said.

Choo Hock Lye, the company's Asean regional manager, said the growing interest in telepresence and managed services--targeted at larger companies--is a result of the growth of Asian companies.

While its customers are predominantly Asian satellite offices of U.S. multinational corporations, Asian companies are growing, said Choo. Particularly, in China, enterprises have grown to a size where they are expanding outside of the country and need to manage their connectivity overseas, he noted.

AT&T is also offering to manage customers' mobile contracts globally. This allows the communications company to negotiate wholesale prices for customers looking to outsource management of their growing number of mobile lines to AT&T, said Choo.

He said the company has some 1,100 telepresence rooms globally, although he could not specify what portion of this is housed in Asia. It is building more telepresence rooms in Singapore and Malaysia this year, but these will be for internal use and not offered to customers for rent, he said.

AT&T also announced it will invest US$1 billion in network and applications services outside of the U.S. this year. The rest of its total US$17 billion to US$18 billion capital investment for 2010 will remain in the U.S. where the bulk of its business is conducted, said Greg Brutus, regional PR director for Asia-Pacific.

He declined to break down the US$1 billion investment by region but said part of it will go toward network enhancements in Singapore, Malaysia and China, subsea cable upgrades as well as setting up a new telepresence business exchange node in Hong Kong.

AT&T's business exchange is a central network to which its telepresence rooms are connected, and that allows its network of rooms to communicate with each other without needing to be directly connected.

Choo contrasted this to Cisco Systems' telepresence installation offering, which connects to a customer's other offices by a direct tunnel, and does not allow such rooms to connect to other rooms not in the private network.

AT&T's telepresence product runs on Cisco hardware but is hooked up to its business exchange network. The Hong Kong node is expected to boost uptime and reliability, with the growing telepresence use in the region, he said.

Frost & Sullivan in March predicted that the Asia-Pacific telepresence market would grow 64.4 percent this year to reach US$73 million in revenue, but will taper off in the next two years due to competition from more affordable mid-range systems.

Revenue growth will decline sharply after this year, to 32.1 percent growth next year and become flat in 2015, the report said.

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