Unified Communications

Vonage Goes Native With WebRTC

By TMCnet Special Guest
Chris Vitek, President, WebRTC Strategies Inc
  |  July 29, 2013

Much of the discussion related to WebRTC is about the browser manufacturers. Google and Mozilla (News - Alert) are supporting the implementation within their browsers. Significantly, there are now more than one billion browsers in use that are WebRTC enabled. Microsoft and Apple will soon have to make a choice. Vonage (News - Alert) Mobile, on the other hand, is taking the high road. You see, Google’s open source offer of free software does not stipulate that it must be implemented in a browser. Part of the open source offer is what is known as Native Implementation. Native is an app that contains the Google (News - Alert) code that runs natively on the operating system of the device. It does require a download, but it does not come with the browser baggage. You can find the app on Play and the App Store right now.

Vonage Mobile’s product is targeted at mobile video, audio and text. The peer-to-peer nature of WebRTC fits perfectly into Vonage Mobile’s architecture where it offers a directory and connectivity service on other people’s networks. Further, the company offers out of the box integration with your address book and integration with your Facebook (News - Alert) account. The app uses SMS to invite non users of the service to participate. The interface is uncluttered and intuitive to use. Additionally, the company is using SIP signaling so the app leverages the substantial investment that Vonage Mobile has already sunk into its SIP network.

Sagi Dudai, vice president of mobile development for Vonage and general manager of Vonage’s Israel office, characterizes the SDK development efforts as challenging and interesting. Below are some of the topics that we discussed.

Quality

The company was looking to deliver a high quality experience and the maturity of the VP8 video, Opus, iSAC and iLBC audio codecs seemed to have satisfied this requirement. The average video call is about 4.5 minutes. As an observation, anyone that has worked with mean opinion scores will know that 4.5 minute calls are a marker for high quality.

Open source

The company had looked at using proprietary software but ultimately decided on open source. The key reason was that it was looking to deliver a video and audio experience on multiple mobile operating systems, and this issue alone required that it have access to source code. Proprietary software vendors are not very keen on this idea.

CPU issues

A large part of the video experience is driven by CPU speed. So much so that the mobile industry measures every new phone by the number of frames per second that it can process. This is particularly relevant to video communications. Given the wide variety of smartphones in the marketplace, there was a need to optimize the software to support this variability. This would have been much more difficult in a browser implementation.

Federation

With WebRTC, federation is nowhere near as complicated as SIP or Lync federation. Basically, WebRTC federation is driven by the endpoint, not a server; although, in the case of Vonage Mobile federation will be based on a proxy implementation since free-keying a URI for an alternative WebRTC directory is not a concept that is built into the interface. Remember, it is not a browser. In this case Vonage will need to allow access to such directories. Basically, this is a one-line URI housed on the proxy. The company is conversational about this, but it is an enterprise feature and I am sure that there will be more discussion before it is productized.

Adoption

Notably, the app has been around for a while. Early versions were voice and text only. As you would expect, the versions that are already downloaded are being systematically updated to the video version. Vonage was not ready to offer a usage statistic yet, but it did offer the fact that the company has seen a heavy spike in utilization. 

Vonage Mobile has the distinction of being the first communications carrier to offer a WebRTC-based product for consumers. It is well designed and has the financial backing to scale very quickly. Updates to this product will be coming on a monthly basis. Given its ease of use and access, I would expect that there will be several mobile carriers that will shortly see a further decline in the use of their voice services.

Chris Vitek is president of WebRTC Strategies Inc.,




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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