WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) was launched nearly 3 years ago and is today one of the hottest topics in the telecom industry. More than 1 Billion devices – mainly PCs – support WebRTC (being browser enabled) and this figure is expected to climb up to 4 Billion by the end of 2016, including smartphone, tablets and other device classes. BICS spoke with Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis and recognised expert on the WebRTC industry about the impact of this new technology on the telecom industry.
The success of WebRTC
WebRTC is a combination of two standards: an IETF-driven “media engine” and set of IP network protocols for real-time communications, plus an API (Application Programming Interface) invented by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) enabling browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing without plugins. Firefox, Chrome and Opera support it. The ability for users to communicate through their browsers in real time with the use of microphone & camera without any proprietary plug-ins is a major innovation. It is bridging gaps between browsers, platforms and devices. WebRTC is very powerful as it requires no (mandatory) login, installations, downloads or add-ons. That said, WebRTC is now moving beyond the browser, appearing in SDKs for native mobile apps and soon even traditional applications and perhaps built-in to some OS’s themselves.
Unlimited possible use-cases of WebRTC
There is a growing list of companies building products upon WebRTC, as well as numerous individuals and developers working on experiments & prototypes. Over 150 vendors are now active in the market. Presently WebRTC is mostly used for commercial and enterprise usage with high-quality voice and video communications, for example in contact centres and business social-networking. Amazon’s Mayday button on Kindle Fire HDX embodies WebRTC’s prime directive, embedding real-time voice, text and video communications capabilities directly into an application context. However, the number of possible use cases is unlimited: corporate conferencing, online learning, online gaming, logistic automation, Health Care etc…. One of the most innovative seen so far is the “Double” robot by Double Robotics by combining Segway-style movement with video telepresence delivered through an iPad. Basically the gadget turns your iPad into a ‘virtual you’ that can be sent anywhere in the world. This will enable remote work and management of factories, enterprises, museums, schools and retail outlets. In the future, WebRTC will allow the “democratisation” of voice and video, with developers easily incorporating new communications features and capabilities into applications or even physical devices and M2M systems.
Impact on the traditional telecom industry
The telecoms industry is already in a precarious position. Many markets are near-saturated, and face both increasing supply (new operators, MVNOs, so-called OTTs etc.) and flat or declining demand for basis telephony and messaging services. The Internet and app ecosystem has already driven disruption with VoIP, IM and social networks taking consumer mindshare. WebRTC will make the opportunities bigger, the threats worse and all this at a faster speed then ever seen before. While there is still a lot of uncertainty and it is difficult to predict who will be winners & losers, WebRTC is a catalyst for change. It will drive the -in general- not very innovative established incumbent operators to reconsider strategies. And as new WebRTC players are entering the market such as Plivo (API’s for Voice, VoIP, SMS and Text messages), Tokbox (Face-to-Face video, owned by Telefonica) & Ondello (Telehealth), it will be a source of extra competition in an already highly competitive environment.
The right WebRTC strategy for telecom operators
As WebRTC is instantaneous peer-to-peer (P2P) communication, it will affect the traditional telecommunication services. This is for traditional telecom operators an uncomfortable reality. Where before the criterion for value was mainly quantitative, expressed in number of minutes and messages, the focus will shift now towards value based on the intention of the user, the purpose of the communication and the context in which the user finds him/her. All this will push telecom players (companies and regulators) to review obsolete business models and to develop communications services & applications meeting real human needs. It’s crucial that operators engage with application builders. And they definitely should have an innovation team looking into ideas changing the future of communications and also for improving their own public web site for intuitive communications and customer support etc. All the greatest in Internet technologies eventually became standard practice. This will be no different for WebRTC.
Point of view by Dean Bubley, authority on the WebRTC industry
About Disruptive Analysis
Disruptive Analysis has been the key analyst company following WebRTC since June 2011. It published the first research study on WebRTC in February 2013, updated in June and October. The report consists of 160 pages detailed commentary, analysis and over 50 tables and charts illustrating the ongoing coverage throughout 2013 and beyond.
For more information: www.disruptive-analysis.com or www.disruptivewireless.blogspot.com