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BT's unified comm cloud goes global

Invades US, mainland Europe, Asia

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British Telecom is eying world domination with the expansion of its hosted unified communications services under a new pact with Cisco Systems.

BT will expand its cloud-based IP telephony service into the US, mainland Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in 2010, and into Asia Pacific the following year.

Already available in the UK, the service supplies voice, mobile, and data services to an organization's desktops using a utility-based, per-user pricing model. Cisco will build the underlying infrastructure using its hosted UC products along with third-party hardware and software. Both companies plan to flog the service — although Cisco will likely handle the lion's share due to its the broader reach of its sales force.

The rollout will include construction of two US data centers in Chicago and Manhattan, according to Steve Masters, chief of global convergence propositions at BT Global Services. The US plots are currently under construction, but should be up and running for customers in June, he said.

The Asia Pacific introduction may also arrive sooner than 2011 depending on the success of the service, Masters noted.

BT and Cisco's pitch for their web-hosted IP telephony service is that it provides a lower-risk investment without the initial overhead of an in-house alternative. What with the economy these days, etcetera, etcetera — you get the idea. Plus, because it will be a near-global offering, an international business can use the single system throughout their organization.

Cedrik Neike, Cisco's senior director of services sales in Europe, said that while pricing ranges widely depending on how much it's used and the services bundled in, on average customers can expect to spend around $10-$15 per month per end point.

Masters claims there was no love lost with it's long-time partner Cisco when BT recently announced a UC global video conferencing service pact with Polycom. Cisco has been smitten with video conferencing as of late, and video was conspicuously absent from the telephony plans announced today.

But Masters said that video is a big part of BT's story, and he fully expects the company to deploy video solutions over its Cisco-based platform in the future. He added that Cisco's proposed takeover of the Norwegian video conferencing equipment maker Tandberg will see its long-time relation with Cisco strengthening even more. ®

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