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Cisco Systems, the world’s largest maker of networking and routing equipment, on Monday announced its first foray into high-end video conferencing systems.

TelePresence, Cisco’s conferencing system, is the latest entrant into a burgeoning market for services that use high-definition video and sound technologies broadcast over a fast data link to create the illusion that colleagues in far-away offices are in the same room.

The company believes the market could be worth $1bn in the next several years.

Such services represent a departure from traditional video conferencing systems, notorious for choppy video, tinny sound and time lag.

Their high cost means they have been adopted only by very big corporate clients.

Cisco said its high-end offering would be priced at $299,000, with a lowlier service available from $79,000. The high-end service is designed to host meetings of up to 12 people around a virtual table using a company’s existing data network.

Hewlett-Packard’s Halo video conferencing system, launched last year in collaboration with the DreamWorks film studio, offers a similar set-up run over a custom-built data backbone for about $425,000 plus a monthly service fee.

Cisco’s plans for marketing the system include a plug in an episode of the detective thriller Vanished on the Fox network.

Marthin De Beer, vice president of Cisco’s emerging markets technology group, said the TelePresence system would help businesses realise their “elusive dream” of face-to-face remote meetings.

“Until now, there was no effective way to increase the number of high-quality interactions and drive greater productivity without more travel,” he said.

HP has said its Halo system can pay for itself by eliminating the need for frequent business-class trips by top managers.

Cisco’s shares rose 0.2 per cent on Monday to $24.61.

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