Cable & Wireless underpins Cisco's move into the Middle East

Two years ago British telco Cable & Wireless (C&W) changed focus and went explicitly enterprise, reducing its customer base drastically and cutting its remaining ties with the consumer world.

This stark move would, the company hoped, allow it to focus on fewer, larger customers, such as networking giant Cisco.

Recently this relationship came to prominence when C&W announced plans for a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network that will cover the Middle East, with Cisco one of the main users, benefitting from improved quality of service (QoS) and multicast capabilities.

"The exciting thing for us is that it proves our strategy is working," said Mike Barnard, director of business and people transformation at C&W. "Cisco have always been important to us, and this takes what effectively has been an UK and European relationship and grown it to the emerging markets."

Barnard said that the fact C&W could put more focus on larger customers meant that it could provide the scale of service that Cisco needed.

"The Middle East is booming in the construction sector, the financial services sector, technology etc, and these are sectors we are strong in," Barnard said.

For companies such as C&W, it is now vital they establish a footing in emerging markets because of the potential for growth as well as the weakened economic situation closer to home.

Barnard said: "A telecoms company that can get a business up and running quickly in these emerging markets is one that underpins big routes to profit growth for customers."

The network that C&W has constructed will give Cisco sales staff the same communications capability as they would have access to in the US. Leading Cisco products such as Telepresence video conferencing can now be deployed to clients in the region.

As well as Cisco, C&W will also provide services for a large financial services company based in the UK, providing a link between the firm's Middle Eastern corporate office and its UK and worldwide data network.

Barnard said that telcos had historically built infrastructure across regions in the hope that customers would come along. C&W claimed that its infrastructure investment strategy differed as it is selective, going where its customers, and thus the revenue, needed it to be.

The importance of Cisco to C&W can not be underestimated, it being one of the largest technology suppliers in the world and one that can sign a multi-million pound contract lasting a number of years.

"It is an extremely important strategic customer," said Barnard. "If you think about Cisco's standing in the technology and telecoms sector the company is a mark of quality and a mark of confidence in the technology that we provide."

"Cisco are extremely demanding and have some of the most sophisticated technology and professionals working there," he added. "It makes very significant demands on the people who work with them, so for us to reference Cisco as a customer is very significant when it comes to C&W as a proposition for larger enterprise customers."