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Bharti Airtel, Verizon tie up on video-conferencing tool

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bharti Airtel Ltd is partnering with Verizon Communications Inc’s BlueJeans to launch a business-focused video conferencing tool, the Indian wireless carrier said on Tuesday.

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Airtel BlueJeans will be free for all business customers for three months and store all of its data in India, Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel CEO (India and South Asia) told a virtual news conference.

Tens of millions of Indians are working from home amid the coronavirus lockdowns.

They are using tools such as U.S.-based Zoom Video Communications Inc’s app to connect with colleagues and customers.

“This work from home trend and this increasing trend towards conferencing and collaborating from remote areas is only going to grow,” Vittal said.

“So we believe that this is a very nascent market - the penetration is low and the opportunity is very large.”

Reliance Industries Ltd’s digital unit recently launched JioMeet, a video-conferencing app which offers Indian users free, 24-hour-long video conferencing calls.

Amitabh Kant, CEO of government think-tank NITI Aayog, endorsed JioMeet on Twitter, calling it a “major technological disruptor from India” and “better than Zoom”.

An Indian ban on 59 Chinese origin apps has led many to promote the use of local apps, echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for “atma-nirbhar”, or economic self-reliance.

India has said Zoom is “not a safe platform” and has issued guidelines to avoid unauthorised users from carrying out malicious acts while using the tool.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; editing by Jason Neely

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