BT gives Zoom a corporate twist: adds it to the Global Managed Network portfolio

via Flickr © Official GDC (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Official GDC (CC BY 2.0)

  • Working from home is clearly here to stay and one of the lockdown legacies is an enhanced appreciation of video conferencing
  • Zoom got famous, but maybe the world is calling out for a better, smoother, version to help us all cope with the 'new normal' of flexible and home working
  • BT is plotting an expensive managed Zoom, but what about a 5G version?

An extended lockdown certainly does weird things to your sense of elapsed time. Can it only be a few months since the pandemic struck and most of us in this business were sequestered at home? Way back then, having a ‘Zoom meeting’ was suddenly a commonplace event, not a grammatical slip, and people loved it. It was so easy to deploy; anyone with a laptop and an internet connection could join. What would we all do without it etc.

Zoom was a darling from the industry perspective too. Proof that the technology could step up to the plate to demonstrate its agility and ability to scale out to cope with any other tough times ahead. As a result, Zoom enjoyed an instant  user explosion commensurate with its name, amassing 370,000 customers with more than 10 employees. Its revenues shot up from $20 million in the second quarter last year to $227 million in the same quarter this year. 

But that was then. Now the gilt has tarnished somewhat and the more common Zoom response is: “I’m so sick of Zoom meetings; I don’t care if I never attend another.”

What appears to have kicked in is understandable annoyance at bad picture quality, screen freezing,  poor sound, various technical niggles and bad Zoom meeting hosting. Like most other things in life, Zoom is good when it works. Rotten when it doesn’t. 

Step forward BT

The UK incumbent has announced that it is to become the first (presumably not the only) facilities-based operator to run Zoom as a managed service, complete with a service level agreement (SLA) and all the usual marks and measures of a corporate network service with end-to-end experience monitoring, enhanced security including encryption of the vitals such as the protection of user IDs.  BT says it will offer connectivity choices, including internet, global SIP, PSTN or MPLS. It will also offer dedicated network gateways and user adoption programmes, to train users up on secure best practice. 

Under the agreement BT is also able to offer Zoom Rooms, Zoom’s extendable software-based conference room system. It says Zoom will join its already full range of global cloud-based audio and video collaboration managed services. 

Andrew Small, director, Global portfolio, BT, said: “We’re keeping it simple for customers, helping them create secure and productive digital workplaces for their people, wherever they are. Our new managed service allows global enterprises, typically with complex network and IT infrastructure, to consume Zoom Meetings in a simple, consistent and secure way with optimised experiences for their people around the world.” 

Zoom is a classic Digital Service Provider offering 

BT’s move is a canny one. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there unafraid to tackle a Zoom meeting should one be offered - as they’ve  involuntarily had to train themselves on it through the lockdown. 

So BT global network customers will now be able to extend Zoom connectivity to all their employees no matter where situated with a reasonable expectation that the quality of the experience will remain high. 

But BT’s move leaves a yawning gap just waiting to be filled between its Rolls Royce Managed Network Service and the scrappy ‘best effort’ services we all now know and love.

There is surely room for BT to make Zoom a 5G based service in the fullness of time where it can exercise security, improved performance and Zoom slices. No doubt other Zoom-like services will also be offered on 5G, but in the UK, BT has managed to get itself a head start. 

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