Cisco, BT Team Up for Hosted UC Services

BT and Cisco are partnering to create a cloud-based, hosted unified communications platform designed to make it more cost-effective for businesses to embrace UC technologies, which bring together voice, mobile and data services. The services will be offered through BT, while Cisco Services will build the underlying infrastructure and help sell the services.

Cisco Systems and British Telecom are creating a cloud-based service to offer businesses hosted unified communications services.

The goal of the partnership, announced Dec. 9, is to enable cash-strapped companies in a difficult economy a way to take advantage of the benefits of UC without having the extensive upfront capital costs of installing the applications on site.

The hosted IP telephony services will be accessed through BT's Onevoice UCC portfolio and hosted on its next-generation 21CN global platform. Cisco Services will build the underlying infrastructure using Cisco and third-party hardware and software.

Organizations will be able to bring converged voice, mobile and data services-including unified messaging, voicemail, video conferencing and IO telephony-to every desktop through a pay-per-user model.

"Businesses today typically have multiple, fragmented, disparate IT and telephony infrastructures that restrict effective communication," Neil Sutton, vice president of BT Global Services' global portfolio, said in a statement. The new offering from BT and Cisco will "help businesses reduce capital expenditure in this difficult time while giving them the ability to introduce productivity-enhancing tools."

The UCC (unified communications and collaboration) space is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Research firm Gartner in October said that the worldwide UCC market will hit $7.4 billion in 2009, a 22 percent increase over last year.

Microsoft, IBM and Cisco account for more than 30 percent of the market, according to Gartner.

Officials with Cisco and BT said the new hosted IP telephony services will enable enterprises to focus more resources on their businesses, with the hosted service also handling upgrades, maintenance and investments costs associated with UC.

BT also will be able to blend the hosted services with whatever on-premise IP telephony technology a company is using, and a Web-based portal will make it easier for businesses to manage their communications environment.

Cisco is bringing in its Cisco Unified Communications portfolio of products. In addition, the company will work with BT in selling the offering to enterprises, Nick Earle, senior vice president of European markets for Cisco Services, said in a video assessment of the partnership.

BT's hosted services currently are available in England now, and will be rolled out in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East in 2010. The Asia Pacific market will follow afterward.