WebRTC's Impact on Service Providers

Feature Story

WebRTC's Impact on Service Providers

By TMCnet Special Guest
Dean Bubley, Director and Founder of Disruptive Analysis
  |  June 17, 2014

Disruptive Analysis believes that WebRTC is one of the most important telecom technologies that has emerged in the past 10 years or more. It will radically alter the landscape for voice, video, and data real-time communications, as it helps democratize them – allowing them to be combined directly with a variety of applications, websites, and devices.

WebRTC capability is already supported by around 1 billion endpoints – predominantly PCs, but also increasing numbers of tablets and smartphones – and Disruptive Analysis forecasts that figure will rise to 5 billion by 2017, spanning both browsers and native applications.

There are three main domains touched by WebRTC:

·         enterprise communications (such as contact centrers, UC and conferencing);

·         telecom service providers (including fixed, mobile, and cable players); and

·         consumer web and mobile apps (including social media, gaming, etc.)

These areas all form an overlapping three-way Venn diagram – and the intersections will yield some of the most powerful effects. Telecom service providers’ adoption of WebRTC will in many cases link to their enterprise service portfolios and market positioning.

WebRTC is a double-edged sword for service providers. For the most imaginative and aggressive, it could bolster their enterprise presence by enabling innovative cloud video propositions, or adding value to IP telephony platforms. But at the same time, for those service providers already worried about the threat of so-called OTT players’ incursion into their market for commodity voice, they will likely face additional and worsening threats.

For telcos, WebRTC makes opportunities larger, threats worse, and everything faster.

Although the focus of WebRTC vendor attention for telcos has been integration with IMS, that probably accounts only for 20 to 30 percent of the total service provider effort around the technology, and is likely to be the slowest to emerge, given the complexities of core networks and typical conservatism of the relevant teams. Instead, the wisest network operators are ensuring that multiple internal teams and stakeholders assess WebRTC independently, and wherever possible act to put solutions into the market as quickly as possible. This may manifest in several forms relevant to enterprise users:

·         Service providers are likely to become important retail channels for certain classes of WebRTC-based, or WebRTC-enabled, services from third parties – notably audio- and videoconferencing.Others will deploy their own WebRTC conferencing platforms, either standalone web-based tools competing with Google Hangouts and Skype (News - Alert) (Telenor has already launched appear.in), or, later, integrated with their core networks and billing systems.

·         Where service providers have existing contact center and hosted UC businesses, it is likely that these will evolve to support WebRTC capabilities, broadly in line with the pace of the rest of the market. Again, these will likely span both stand-alone and IMS-based options.

·         A number of service providers are already exploring the market for cloud-based WebRTC-as-a-service, competing against (or acquiring) various specialist API providers targeting application and web developers. While these are mainly targeting businesses’ external-facing websites and mobile apps, it can be expected that others will focus on internal enterprise developers in due course. Telefonica (News - Alert) Tokbox and NTT Skyway are already present here.Telcos may also offer thin cloud-based slices of WebRTC infrastructure, such as hosted TURN servers, or voice/video transcoding-as-a-service.

·         Some service providers have deep and extensive presence in certain vertical sectors such as health care, education, or finance – for example, providing integrated solutions to hospitals or schools. Where these involve communication elements, expect WebRTC to appear as a means to reduce time-to-market and development effort.

·         WebRTC-enabled applications will likely form part of some operators’ SaaS (News - Alert) portfolios, either as horizontal tools, or embedded into vertical forms such as salesforce automation or industry-specific packaged applications.

·         As operators deploy IMS-based VoIP and VoLTE, they will look for ways to extend reach to other devices or users that do not support native clients or softphones, such as employees’ PCs and tablets with suitable browsers.

There will likely be numerous other touchpoints with enterprise for telcos’ WebRTC efforts. Disruptive Analysis has already encountered examples of operators looking at embedding real-time communications into M2M or new Internet of Things uses. Corporate fleet-management systems may be upgraded with occasional embedded voice connectivity, or even low-latency streaming data, for example.

Lastly, a broader renaissance in voice/video applications is on the horizon, taking communications beyond the call into areas such as biometrics, hypervoice, recording, and analytics. WebRTC will be an enabler – and telecom service providers may be present as hosts or innovators.


Taken together, many service providers are likely to deploy WebRTC services – and in Disruptive Analysis’ view, much of the low-hanging fruit lies in servicing the needs of corporate communications and developers.

Dean Bubley (News - Alert) is director and founder of Disruptive Analysis (disruptivewireless.blogspot.com), a London-based research firm and consultancy, covering voice, video and mobile network technologies. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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