Foreign Office signs contract for video conferencing services

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has recently signed a new contract with Cable & Wireless WorldWide which will see the firm supply telecom and video conferencing services to more than 250 embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world.

As reported by the UK Press Association, the £82 million, five and a half year contract is to reflect new changes made to the FCO’s communication’s policies under the coalition Government’s austerity measures and the growing drive to reduce carbon emissions. According to a Cable & Wireless spokesperson, the FCO’s flight costs will be reduced by at least 25% though increased uptake of video conference solutions to the work of the international organisation.

The FCO has holdings in some 160 countries worldwide and although exact figures for the departments air travel spending are unavailable, it is believed to be a significant contributor to the government’s £18.5m flight costs for 2007/08, revealed by the Taxpayers Alliance in 2009. Yet at the beginning of 2010, the FCO joined many other government departments in signing up to the 10:10 campaign to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 10% by the end of the year.

To this end, it has pledged to target carbon emissions from air travel through a greater use of video conferencing and in 2009, over 200 members of the FCO participated in the organisations first ever leadership video conference. According to a report in the Guardian in February, the FCO has set a target of replacing one in ten flights with video conferencing.

Cable & Wireless say that under the new contract, there will be significant savings in the cost of the FCO’s telecommunications use as previously the department used local service providers. The FCO has said that it expects to reduce ongoing operating costs by using a single network instead.

In addition to video conferencing, Cable & Wireless will provide communications security, cloud based application services, internet telephony and unified communications. “We’re delighted that this groundbreaking framework is now in place and that we have our first contract in the FCO,” said Jim Marsh, chief executive of the firm.