Cisco Keeps Customers in View with AT&T Telepresence Solution

About Cisco

Headquartered in San Jose, California, Cisco is a leading global provider of networking hardware, software and services. The company designs, manufactures and sells a wide range of products to serve its corporate, small business and consumer customers. Cisco has locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia-Pac.


Cisco is at the forefront of immersive video conferencing, putting it to work to connect its geographically dispersed locations. The technology had limits, however, when it came to reaching beyond the company. Without industrywide compatibility standards, video communication across different vendor platforms, networks and devices was a challenge. Problems included unpredictable call quality and limited access for emerging devices. Cisco needed to extend its use of immersive video communication to more interactions with a broader group of customers and suppliers. The company had conducted a self-managed trial, but knew that it did not want to dedicate resources to managing the solution on an ongoing basis.


Cisco chose AT&T to provide a business-to-business (B2B) video conferencing solution. AT&T Telepresence Solution operates within standards set by the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), providing consistent inter-company video conferencing across different user hardware and networks. The visual communications reach of Cisco has increased exponentially thanks to direct video connection to OVCC members and to their customers over a dedicated network. This fully managed solution supports a wide range of devices so Cisco can visually connect to virtually anyone, anywhere, and the IT team doesn’t need to dedicate additional resources to support it.

Connecting to Solve Problems

Cisco was formed in 1984, when founders Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner developed the groundbreaking multi-protocol router, a device used to connect disparate networks. Today Cisco designs, manufactures and distributes networking equipment to address a wide range of business needs, including security, compliance and collaboration. From voice and data communication to video conferencing, its products serve enterprises, small businesses and consumers.

Cisco innovations are driven by customer need. Whether working with start-ups or Fortune 500 companies, the company helps customers solve networking problems, enabling them to connect, expand and grow, efficiently and effectively. Cisco prioritizes long-term, collaborative relationships with its customers, suppliers and partners. The company also serves as a role model, sharing its internal experiences and solutions.

At Cisco, collaboration is key. To connect its globally dispersed locations, Cisco makes extensive use of immersive video conferencing, a solution that the company developed itself. “Video helps create those relationships that you can’t necessarily create over audio. It’s just a much more personal connection,” said Chris Groves, Project Manager. “We have a large amount of video usage internally, and we find that it helps our own internal operations.” In addition to using video conferencing, Cisco is a leading provider of telepresence technology, the immersive video equipment used by major companies across the world.

Missed Potential

Cisco immersive video conferencing was effective for intra-company meetings, but the potential was there to do much more. Without interoperability standards, the video conferencing technology could not predictably connect across varied networks, or with multiple kinds of hardware. Cisco saw a significant challenge.

“We want to make sure that in this day and age, we can communicate with video to anyone,” said Groves. “If a company has purchased a competitor’s product, we still want to talk to them, and we want to make sure that they can connect in to us. We don’t want to close any doors.”

An industrywide lack of standard interconnection methods caused problems for existing bridging solutions. Users had to deal with glitches and confusing set-up procedures. If Cisco did connect with outside locations, too often the connection proved unpredictable.

As a leader in quality video conferencing, Cisco has high expectations and standards, and for good reason. The high quality of immersive video conferencing is critical for achieving a face-to-face experience. Web-based video conferencing, while available for inter-company communication, was not always sufficient.

“We do a fair amount of web conferencing, but it’s not the same,” said Groves. “We wanted to make sure we had a real, commercially available, business-to-business immersive capability where you’re looking at someone else’s eyes and not little windows on your screen.”

In addition, video communication across different devices could be difficult, or impossible. Certain endpoints, such as soft clients, could not be included in a video conference. Devices such as smartphones and tablets, which are growing rapidly in popularity, needed to be included in the video conferencing mix. “As a customer, you don’t want to be locked into only using a certain kind of phone, endpoint or device because that’s the only thing that’s supported,” Groves said. Quality video conferencing needed to adapt to the many ways people connect to do business.

Maximizing the business value and potential of video conferencing, for Cisco, its customers and even its competitors, depended on removing these network and hardware issues. However, Cisco did not want to solve these problems on its own. Building the network necessary to expand immersive video conferencing would be a massive undertaking for one company. Cisco would continue using its own TelePresence hardware, but did not want to become a network provider.

A New Standard

When it came to finding a solution, Cisco was in a unique position. The company is a member of the new OVCC. Started in 2011, the OVCC is a non-profit organization of leading technology providers, who came together to develop connection standards for global video communication. The OVCC is an industry response to the difficulties that companies such as Cisco encountered when trying to use video conferencing outside their own system.

Through an inter-provider agreement, the members of the OVCC, though they are sometimes direct competitors, work together to expand the interoperability of video conferencing equipment, so that purchasers can put high-quality video communication to work across any network, vendor platform or device.

Cisco decided to find a fully managed immersive video conferencing solution that was OVCC compliant. After reviewing proposals, Cisco chose AT&T, a long-standing retail partner and founding member of the OVCC, to assist in providing and managing its immersive video conferencing through AT&T Telepresence Solution.

Maximum reach was critical, both in terms of number of customers and location of operations. Cisco wanted access to the highest quality connections possible. “We looked for direct reach. We wanted to pick providers that had a large number of customers on their exchange, so it wasn’t a multiple hop,” said Groves. Today Cisco can access any company registered with the AT&T Business Exchange. And, as it continues to expand in emerging markets, AT&T locations are right where Cisco needs them.

With help from AT&T, Cisco implemented AT&T Telepresence Solution, a solution that uses Cisco equipment. In this case Cisco is the customer. AT&T Telepresence Solution uses coordinated room design and high-definition video to create a state-of-the-art meeting experience. The “meet me” feature uses actual size video images and spatial audio to create the feeling of being in the same room.

Extending Visual Reach

AT&T Telepresence Solution increases the reach and flexibility of Cisco’s visual communications. Cisco can conduct high-quality immersive video conferencing with companies regardless of their hardware or network provider. As an AT&T customer, Cisco can access any other OVCC member’s customers without having to create a new connection. New business is just a hop away. “I can reach customers I don’t even know I want to talk to yet,” said Groves. Cisco also has access to members’ public locations, such as video conferencing rooms in hotels.

As another benefit, Cisco can now add multiple devices to its videoconferences. AT&T Telepresence Solution connects a broad range of different endpoints, from dedicated immersive rooms to desktops, tablets and smartphones, creating opportunities for dynamic video collaboration.

While the majority of the high-quality Cisco inter-company video conferencing is used for sales meetings with customers, the company also uses the solution for special events, such as CIO summits. The AT&T solution increases access to these meetings, regardless of where participants may be or what device they use to join the event. “Participants don’t have to be in an immersive room. They can be soft clients or web clients, and can ask questions to the people who are in the immersive rooms,” explained Groves.

Operating over a robust, standardized network, AT&T Telepresence Solution enables reliable, high-quality video communication worldwide. The OVCC has a dedicated network ring, the OVCC backbone, to connect its users. This ring runs over an AT&T Virtual Private Network (VPN) for consistent global connection. “It’s high quality of service across the board, which means we can run our immersive video and have guaranteed stable service,” said Groves. “All of our interactions with our customers can have that high-quality video. We get that value of the interaction, and that leads to better engagement.”

Service is predictable. And its popularity is clear: Cisco uses about 40,000 minutes per month through the OVCC-compliant service. “We’ve been incredibly happy with it. We use it all the time,” Groves said.

Customers Come First

With a fully managed solution, Cisco saves resources. “We don’t have to build it, design it or run it,” said Groves. AT&T provides around-the-clock support. This service frees Cisco IT staff from the daily challenge of maintaining equipment and managing use, and enables them to focus on Cisco innovations and services. In addition, the managed solution cuts costs. “It’s actually cheaper for us to be the customer than having to run that on our own environment,” Groves added.

Always positioned at the forefront of the rapidly changing digital world, Cisco has been a key player in creating that change. One thing it knows well: “Technology is not going to sit still,” said Groves. AT&T Telepresence Solution enables Cisco to stay ahead of the game. In addition to the wide reach of the AT&T network, the OVCC continues to expand. “Because there are so many other customers connected to the OVCC, we get a synergy of mass where we know new endpoints, new reach, new devices and new capabilities are going to get added over time, on a pretty consistent basis,” Groves explained.

For Cisco, this all comes back to its customers. “We want to be our first and best customer. We want to put our product through the paces with real usage so that our customer experience is better,” said Groves. Having proven the solution in its own business, Cisco is well positioned to know and satisfy those customers’ expectations.

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