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Verizon, BT Hook Up On Global Teleconferencing

Looking to boost their videoconferencing businesses, Verizon Enterprise Solutions and BT have struck an agreement to let customers hold virtual face-to-face meetings using Cisco Systems' TelePresence solution on each other's networks.

Under the agreement, Verizon and BT have interconnected their business-to-business data exchange networks in Denver and provisioned additional dedicated bandwidth to handle the intercarrier traffic. The telcos have a settlement agreement to pay each other based on customer usage.

"We're fierce competitors, but it's also time we need to work together to build a market," said Jeff Cayer, group marketing manager for visual communications for Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

Verizon has a similar telepresence agreement with Tata Communications, and BT has deals with AT&T, Tata and France's Orange.

As for whether Verizon would engage in a similar hookup with cable operators, Cayer said today MSOs do not offer the same kinds of telepresence services aimed at large, multinational corporations. But, he added, "it probably will make sense" at some point down the road.

Cisco's TelePresence system can use as much as 20 Mbps of bandwidth per endpoint for large conference room installations, with smaller-room systems consuming 7-10 Mbps, according to Marc Hambley, senior product manager for BT Conferencing.

BT and Verizon have modeled the intercarrier traffic they expect will be generated by their telepresence clients, and the companies have provisioned more than three times that, Hambley said. Under their initial arrangement, BT and Verizon will support Cisco teleconferencing devices, but they anticipate adding support for additional protocols and devices.

Verizon and BT telepresence customers will have access to a directory to determine which organizations are registered on the other carrier's network and are available for telepresence meetings. Customers will continue to rely on their respective service providers as a single point of contact for support, assistance and billing.