BT to offer inter-company TelePresence

The IT and communications giant will extend its TelePresence offering to allow customers to use the expensive videoconferencing technology outside their own organisations

BT is to start offering an inter-company version of Cisco's high-end TelePresence videoconferencing service to its customers around the globe.

The BT One Source service has begun a gentle rollout across Europe and the US, and customers will later this month be invited to try it out before the full launch at the end of the year. It will also provide 'concierge' support for customers who need a helping hand using TelePresence, BT said on Tuesday.

TelePresence uses large high-definition displays in a specially built room to create a more realistic 'life-size' videoconference virtual meeting, but it doesn't come cheap at around $300,000 (£169,000) for each TelePresence room.

Several providers, including BT, already resell Cisco's videoconferencing offering as a managed service for companies to use internally, but BT is now extending the service to allow organisations to hold videoconferences with external customers, suppliers and partners.

Luis Alvarez, president EMEA and Latin America at BT Global Services, said in a statement: "The quality of audio and videoconferencing services has rocketed over the last few years to meet the demands of today's global businesses. Up until now, business has enjoyed these benefits only in internal meetings so, by eliminating this technological barrier, the benefits of TelePresence will be enjoyed far more widely, enabling more effective collaboration between companies."

The high cost of TelePresence and other rival high-end videoconferencing systems such as HP's Halo have made it a hard sell to many customers, but banking giant HSBC recently announced plans to fit Cisco's TelePresence at nine of its offices around the globe in order to reduce its air-travel costs.