Tata Communications announced today the first commercial rollout of Cisco's telepresence application. They now have pay-per-use public rooms in hotels in the US and UK as well as in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai over in India, and are planning to make 100 such rooms available globally by the end of 2009. So any of us who have need of this bandwidth burning, lifelike videoconferencing app, and either the money to pay for it or an employer paying one heck of a per diem, can now give it a whirl.
It was almost two years ago that we got the first look at this Cisco product demo, truly lifelike videoconferencing. The 'gee whiz' factor was stratospheric, but then so were the bandwidth requirements and other costs. As cost-benefit goes, how often does one need this sort of thing rather than a simple phone call or perhaps a Webex session? I figured it would be years and years before it became economically feasible, no matter how cool it is.
Well, I still think that's true to an extent, and I don't think Tata expects to make any substantial money off this product, nor will the hotels. At least not directly. No, this is a marketing play, an attention getter for Tata Communications, something that says Tata can play in the big leagues to those of us who are still figuring out who they are. The increasingly aggressive Indian carrier has big plans and this is probably just the first of many salvos aimed at the dominant international carriers. And it makes sense for them to use this lever, given the need for better communication between all those US and UK companies and their outsourced workforces. And Cisco? They're just trying to provoke more bandwidth usage anywhere they can of course, and I wish them luck.
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