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Conferencing/telepresence

Nortel Touts TP Service Over Style

Nortel Networks Ltd. today announced its biggest telepresence customer to date, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu .

What really made the difference, Nortel says, were the services offered. “We don’t believe this is a business of equipment,” says Jerry Boezel, Nortel's VP of global services channel strategy and marketing.

The hard work of telepresence comes from offering service level agreements (SLAs), consultancy services, and management services that make the mechanics of telepresence invisible to the end user.

“SLAs are huge for large enterprises,” says Boezel. “They all want them as close to 100 percent as possible. All it takes is a couple of failed telepresence meetings before they give up trying to use it.”

Obviously, carriers have been offering managed services for years. But telepresence is yet another area where vendors are starting to take note of the managed services revenue potential. (See Vendors Take Note: Managed Services Matter.)

Nortel's approach involves hardware partners such as Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) and Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA). The company simply resells their telepresence technology and adds its own managed services to the mix. (See Nortel, Tandberg Team on Telepresence and Nortel Trumps Cisco?)

What Nortel lacks, so far, is a carrier partner to represent its solution to the world's biggest companies. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) recently partnered with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to offer managed services along with that vendor's telepresence kit. (See AT&T Preps Telepresence Service and BT Lines Up Telepresence Service.)

Since Nortel doesn't provide the network connection or the hardware, but fancies itself the service management expert, it will be interesting to see if carriers find Nortel to be a valuable partner, or completely disposable, in the sales process.

Boezel argues that Nortel can save carriers from making the investment to monitor such services, a fact that could prove appealing to smaller carriers. He notes Nortel has eight multimedia network operating centers (MNOCs). “Carriers want to get to market fast, and they’re going to ask: 'Where do I invest my dollars?' If I can team with Nortel, I can be in the market quicker and invest my dollars in other areas of the business,” says Boezel.

Boezel says Nortel has received partnership inquiries from a number of Tier 2 and Tier 3 carriers, and is also in discussions with larger carriers as well.

Nortel won't say what the exact dollar size of the Deloitte deal is but did say that it is a multi-year and multi-million deal -- its largest ever for telepresence.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading
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