The News: Effective immediately, Cisco Webex has expanded the capabilities of its free Webex offer in all countries where it is available (44 countries), not only those impacted by COVID-19. Below represents the additional features being offered at no charge to free Webex:
- Unlimited usage (no time restrictions)
- Supports up to 100 participants
- Offers toll dial-in (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities).
Additionally, Cisco is offering free 90-day licenses to businesses who are not Webex customers in this time of need while also helping existing customers meet their rapidly changing needs as they enable a much larger number of remote workers by expanding their usage at no additional cost. Read the full update from Cisco. (For full detail on the offer and eligible countries click here.)
Analyst Take: Last week, Zoom drew a lot of attention as the company lifted its limits for free video calling within China after CEO Eric Yuan sought to do more to help customers during the time of the ongoing COVID-19 scare. This week Cisco and its global collaboration platform Webex, has decided to up the ante by offering enhanced free services to a much broader audience than just China–To include all 44 countries in which free Webex is currently offered.
Why This is Good for Webex and the World
We are in a period of increasing uncertainty. While I believe COVID-19 will hit a tipping point and conditions will improve, the event as a whole served as a wakeup call to the world that despite advances in healthcare and technology, society is still at risk to a rapid spreading outbreak and its impact goes beyond just health, but also has significant impacts on the economy. As I mentioned above, Zoom got a lot of attention for its quick reaction to turn on enhanced services for Chinese users, but I like that Cisco took it one step further as we have now seen that COVID-19 has no borders and has wreaked havoc on parts of Europe, Asia and North America. By giving enhanced free services to more than 44 countries, the impact of Webex to help keep business turning is significant.
Cisco provided a few data points to further amplify this. In a recent article announcing the enhanced services, the company pointed out the following increased usage on the platform since the outbreak:
- Traffic on the Webex backbone connecting China-based Webex users to their global workplaces has increased as much as 22 times since the outbreak began.
- During the same time period, we also saw 4 to 5 times as many users in Japan, South Korea and Singapore, with the average time spent on Webex video meetings doubling among users in those countries.
- On average, free sign-ups in impacted countries are up 7 times over pre-outbreak sign-up rates.
Clearly the world is flocking to collaboration solutions. While this won’t directly drive revenue for Cisco, the indirect impact of this move should be significant as the company gets additional exposure AND the company continues to show its investment in corporate social responsibility. This move will almost certainly payoff for Cisco and the Webex business.
Cisco’s Approach to Delivering Expanded Capacity
Another item worth paying attention to was Cisco’s behind the scenes approach to delivering on the expanded capacity. The company, having already seen significant increases in traffic for its free product, knew that it would have to up the infrastructure from PTSD to SIP to Cloud to handle increased use. The push to make sure the infrastructure was in place to support an increase capacity was a sound move and I like that rather than being first to toot its horn, the company focused on being 100% that it could handle a surge in traffic during these complex times.
Overall Impressions of Cisco Webex Response to COVID-19
I believe that Cisco and its global Webex foot print is well situated to support travel and work limitations during this time of uncertainty. While the COVID-19 scare will settle down as data and science continue to provide clarity, the ongoing challenge of situations like this are likely to arise and having technology at the forefront of solving these issues to keep companies running while keeping employees healthy is going to be increasingly important. (These technologies can certainly do the same for education as well) I’m happy to see Cisco using its platform for good at this time.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.