British Telecom (NYSE:BT, news, filings) and AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) took their telepresence offerings to a new, important level yesterday. The two telecommunications giants have announced the commercial availability of the industry’s first “inter-provider exchange-to-exchange telepresence meeting capability.” That means that customers of BT’s telepresence offering can schedule with and connect to AT&T’s customers, and vice versa. Such interconnectivity is, in my humble opinion, the single most important missing feature in the telepresence of today. I think we’ll see more such work done between other providers in 2011.
For now, telepresence connections between the two providers can only take place on Cisco gear, but both support multiple equipment providers for their own exchanges and will probably extend the relationship to include those. Using Cisco gear first was simply a first step. The interconnection process required a secure VPN connection between the two exchanges, meet-me room capability, and changes to support and billing software. Overall, it sounds like they worked out a few kinks in the process, which will make it easier the next time. And there will be a next time, of that I am sure.
I do wonder though just how such interconnectivity will scale. The number of connections goes up exponentially with the number of providers. Could it be that things will develop similarly to the Ethernet Exchanges, where at some point we see independent and neutral exchange points spring up while the largest still prefer direct NNIs? I’ll bet it does someday, but for now only the largest seem to be in the telepresence game so I suppose it doesn’t matter.
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