Tesco gears up for £100m network overhaul

Teaming up with Cable & Wireless, the retail giant expects its five-year telecommunications network overhaul to save it up to £10m per year

Tesco is about to embark on a five-year £100m overhaul of its telecommunications network that is expected to save the retail giant up to £10m per year.

The contract with Cable & Wireless (C&W) is intended to free office staff from their desks by using mobile VoIP phones; allow remote experts to advise customers on the best wines or gadgets via video kiosks; and transmit regular video pep-talks for employees by Tesco execs.

C&W will connect 1,800 Tesco sites and about 400,000 staff in more than 14 countries with a single network running at up to 10Mbps — about 40 times the speed of existing connections.

Nick Folkes, IT director for UK infrastructure and operations at Tesco, told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com, that it was one of the largest rollouts of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) in the UK.

FMC will allow staff to rely on one mobile phone, which will route calls over Tesco's internal network or via an external provider, depending on their location.

Most of the savings will come from the VoIP phones which will cut costs by routing calls through Tesco's internal network.

Folkes said the next-generation network could also help Tesco realise its target of cutting its CO2 emissions in half by 2020, by allowing more videoconferencing and intelligent systems that adjust heating, lighting and cooling at stores and offices to minimise wastage.

Folkes said: "Not only will we get savings from converging the voice and data, we will also be bringing the separate global networks together. We are radically altering the capacity of the data network. It will open up a new set of opportunities for us."

The extra bandwidth will allow high-definition videoconferencing using Telepresence teleconferencing provided by Cisco Systems.

The increased bandwidth will also allow Tesco to give global staff direct access to its corporate software, such as its management information systems.

The supermarket is also looking at the possibility of increasing the use of cameras to monitor shelves and provide real-time feedback on store management.