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Verizon to resell Zoom video conferencing to businesses

Verizon has struck a deal to resell Zoom video conferencing to small and midsize businesses. The telecommunications firm will target the enterprise market with Cisco Webex.

Zoom has struck a deal to make its cloud-based video conferencing services available to Verizon business customers, a significant win for Zoom that puts the newly public company on a more level playing field with chief rival Cisco.

In addition to reselling Zoom video licenses, Verizon will let business customers access Zoom meeting audio at no additional charge using Verizon wireless or voice-over-IP services. Verizon will also manage Zoom deployments for customers, reducing the IT resources needed for implementation.

The telecommunications giant has an existing agreement to resell Cisco Webex. It chose to partner with Zoom because of the traction the vendor has gained in the market and because of Zoom's ease of use, said Alla Reznik, Verizon's executive director of business communications products and services.

Verizon will target Cisco Webex at enterprises and Zoom at small and midsize businesses, Reznik said, "but the lines between the two are not set in stone." For Zoom, Verizon's seal of approval is a sign of its rising position in the video conference market.

"This does give Verizon an expanded audience, but it also validates Zoom with another tier-one partner," said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. Zoom already had a partnership with AT&T.

Zoom stock was up 5.4% on Thursday following the Verizon announcement. Founded in 2011, Zoom went public in April in one of the tech industry's biggest stock market debuts of the year, with share prices surging more than 70% on the first day of trading. The company, which brought in $330 million last year, is now valued at $24.8 billion.

Gartner has identified Verizon a leader in the market for cloud unified communications, with its products in that market built on Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution and Cisco BroadSoft. Verizon's enterprise division sold $8.8 billion worth of networking, communications and security products to business last year.

Zoom Rooms adds people counting

In other Zoom news, the company announced this month that Zoom video room systems could now track the number of people that attend meetings. The feature is available now for Mac users and coming soon for Windows and Chrome OS.

Zoom said the feature, which is off by default, does not rely on facial recognition. Rather, the room system takes pictures of attendees that are stored locally. After the computer counts the number of people in attendance, it deletes the files.

Enterprises are increasingly looking for ways to measure the return on investment for collaboration technologies, said Tom Eagle, analyst at Gartner. People counting will help IT administrators better track usage of Zoom video rooms.

Cisco Webex also now supports people counting through the use of facial recognition technology. In addition to tracking attendees, Cisco's off-by-default facial recognition can identify attendees and display nametags under their faces.

Zoom Rooms expands third-party support

Zoom is making it cheaper for organizations to connect to meetings hosted by competitors Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, and -- in beta -- BlueJeans. Many large enterprises have contracts with multiple collaboration vendors.

The vendor no longer requires a separate interoperability license for a Zoom room system to dial into a third-party meeting through standards-based Session Initiation Protocol and H.323 connections. Previously, businesses would need Zoom's Conference Room Connector license for the room systems dialing in.

Businesses will still need to license an interoperability service for the device hosting the third-party meeting, such as Polycom RealConnect. But the change should encourage the use of Zoom room systems in situations where users would have otherwise joined from their laptops for lack of connectivity.

"Silos still exist in video conferencing in a lot of ways," Arnold said. "These initiatives show that those walls are starting to come down even more."

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