Conferencing Erupts in Wake of Volcano

With travel plans on hold and business folk stranded overseas waiting to get back to, or out of, Europe following the volcanic ash-induced disruption to the European aviation sector, demand for conferencing services has shot up by more than a third, according to BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See Why SPIT Beats Ash.)

The British incumbent says its large multinational customers have increased their use of various conferencing services by an average of 35 percent since Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano blew its top on April 14.

A BT spokesman says the mix of services used is roughly 80 percent audio and 20 percent video conferencing. He was unable, though, to say whether there had been an increase in demand for, or inquiries about, the managed telepresence services that BT offers to large companies. (See BT Helps Videoconferencers Connect and BT Offers International Telepresence.)

The spokesman tells Light Reading that the reaction by existing customers is similar to that during previous "business continuity disruptions," such as the spread of avian flu and, more locally in the UK, the disruption to all sorts of travel experienced earlier this year following worse-than-expected snowfalls.

He also noted that the current situation is likely to influence purchasing decisions in the future, as CFOs and CIOs are more likely to turn to managed services, and to install their own conferencing facilities, following a disruption to their business processes and travel schedules.

Other service providers also say that usage, and interest, have increased during the past five days, but they have only internal anecdotal evidence for this and don't yet have any definitive supporting metrics.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), one of the vendors most likely to benefit from any increase in demand for high-end conferencing services and technology, has been crowing about a "spike in demand" for its TelePresence facilities, reports Reuters. (See Cisco Brings Telepresence Home, Cisco Lands Tandberg, at Last, and Tandberg Deal Boosts Cisco's Video Plans.)

A Cisco spokesman, though, said the company doesn't break out its sales figures, so "we can't provide you with an indication of the interest in our TelePresence products as a result of the volcano eruption." Bah humbug!

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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