Cisco’s Webex participants near 600 million as pandemic flares again

FILE PHOTO: A visitor uses a mobile phone in front of the Cisco booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
FILE PHOTO: A visitor uses a mobile phone in front of the Cisco booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

October 23, 2020

By Supantha Mukherjee and Stephen Nellis

STOCKHOLM/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Cisco’s video-conferencing app Webex clocked 590 million participants in September and is on track to record over 600 million this month, nearly double the numbers recorded in March when countries started shutting down due to the pandemic.

After offices started to close down due to COVID-19, people switched on video conferencing platforms to work from home, leading to swift growth in platforms such as Webex, Zoom Video Communications Inc and Microsoft Corp’s Teams.

While the expansion in Webex user numbers started in March, it has not tapered off, and attendees are at all-time highs in October amid a resurgent pandemic, Jeetu Patel, Cisco Systems Inc’s general manager for security and applications business, told Reuters.

Webex had recorded 324 million meeting participants in March. Zoom disclosed 300 million daily participants in April, and Teams in April disclosed 200 million. The numbers may not be comparable because the companies may use different methods of counting attendees and do not disclose those methods.

Zoom and Microsoft declined to give updated user numbers.

Webex and Teams were initially focused on business customers, while Zoom cornered the market for everything from virtual classrooms to church services.

Though the meeting participants have increased more than three-fold from last year, a very large percentage of usage still comes from enterprises, Cisco said.

But Cisco is working to change that. Webex has a new product for schools that features the ability to host a large classroom, split the class into small groups, and bring it back together.

“We are focused on education very aggressively,” Patel said.

Cisco also plans to roll out a feature to filter background noise such as a barking dog or the sound of a passing car from an ongoing meeting following its acquisition of BabbleLabs in August.

“We will have it available to all WebEx users from Oct. 30 for no additional charge,” Patel said, adding that Cisco remains open to more acquisitions that will add new capabilities to Webex.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Christopher Cushing)