Rogers adopts Telepresence


One of Canada’s largest ISPs has decided it’s sometimes better to conduct meetings over the network than in person.

Rogers Communications will soon roll out Cisco’s TelePresence product at its downtown Toronto and Brampton, Ont.-based campus locations. Those installations will be followed by another rollout at offices in Montreal and Vancouver later this year.

Announced last year, Cisco’s TelePresence includes 65-inch plasma displays with 1080p video, cameras, codecs, sound system, lighting and furniture. Version 1000, which costs US$79,000, is designed for meetings of up to four people in a regular office, while version 3000, which costs US$299,000, is designed for meetings of 12 people (six in two separate locations) includes three plasma displays and requires a specially-designed room.

Mike Adams, chief operating officer at Rogers Cable, said the company hopes to cut down on some of the back-and-forth trips employees take between locations, particularly those that are clustered fairly close together. Rogers is already a longtime Cisco customer. It has deployed Cisco’s Unified Communications product line, for example, and for obvious reasons is a highly IP-based company.

“We’re a network company – the cost of connectivity is easier for us to absorb,” he said. “In this day and age, it’s not a bad thing to try to leverage the vendor relationship.”

Olaf Krahmer, vice-president for the service provider unit of Cisco Canada, said the ultra high-definition video and CD-quality audio of TelePresence makes the system a worthwhile investment, even for those who have stayed way from videoconferencing systems so far.

“About 60 per cent of communication is non-verbal,” he said. “It is really replicating the in-person meeting.”

Adams agreed, adding that trial attempts with the product convinced Rogers it could create more efficiencies.

“Going back from the late 70s or 80s when the technologies included PictureTel or things like that, the experience was not the same that you’re getting now with TelePrescence. The experience and ease of use prevented people from using the infrastructure,” he said. “It’s the expressions, it’s the messaging that you get in a real-life environment. It’s been realistic enough in the sessions that I’ve made it in.”

Rogers will be working with IBM Canada, which has a partnership with Cisco, to implement the TelePresence products, but afterwards internal staff can handle the management of it.

While setting up TelePresence may require some special attention, once it’s in place users shouldn’t expect to create new workflows or processes, Krahmer said, adding that ease of use has been paramount.

“The same way you book meetings in Outlook, you can book TelePresence as well. The meeting shows up on the phone, and all you need is one button to activate the call,” he said.

While Rogers has the pipes to handle the kind of traffic TelePresence could carry, Krahmer said Cisco usually conducts some kind of assessment to ensure customers will have enough bandwidth to make use of the system without putting a strain on others.