At the very end of 2014, I was at the WebRTC 2014 conference in Europe. I already provided a summary of the important things discussed at the conference and talked about the challenges of running WebRTC on mobile devices which was one of the topics I presented at the event.
In this post, I want to provide a few highlights of what Telcos presented with regards to their activities in WebRTC on the first day of the conference.
How do Telcos grasp WebRTC?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Sebastian from Slovak Telecom presented this topic nicely by showing how technology and marketing people view it in the telephony context – connecting from IMS and billed as telephony.
Dr. Joachim Stegmann from Deutsche Telekom presented the different views inside his company in one slide which nicely demonstrated the fact that WebRTC, as a technology, can serve multiple needs. It can extend existing networks and services on the one hand while creating new opportunities in the Web and Telco OTT fronts on the other. One hand doesn’t contradict the other and each will typically be handled by different groups inside the Telco organization.
Taking a closer look at the 4 key areas Joachim presented:
Connecting Telcos and the Web – This is pretty much the IMS integration view that allows Telcos to launch new services that utilize both IMS and WebRTC. I can see the value but I view it more as a GW type of approach and would put the focus on the services that can be launched on the WebRTC side and less on how they connect to IMS.
Enterprise communication – This is a B2B type of service, and based on what Joachim discussed, it reduces the complexity we experience many times in enterprise video conferencing and collaboration. I agree that WebRTC can make these services better, easier to launch and easier to use. But there are many WebRTC-based collaboration services available today, many of them not too successful as they just took what was possible before with a plug-in and did it with WebRTC. The successful services (not all WebRTC based) provide a more comprehensive offering. I refer to Microsoft Lync that provides an enterprise telephony and collaboration solution or Slack that integrates nicely with many Web services in order to provide a compelling solution.
Service providers need to more than just adopt WebRTC in order to win here.
WebRTC will change customer service – This is B2C communication, in the form of some sort of Contact Center 2.0. Amazon has raised the bar on customer service but that has nothing to do with WebRTC, rather it has to do with state of mind. Integrating a video chat client into a tablet can be done without WebRTC, the hard part is providing the service not the technology. Given Contact Center overload, and in many cases, desire to move B2C to other channels such as chat and forums, the video service is relevant only to specific target audiences in specific segments (hint: $ value of the user being served).
Cloud-based MVNO and Telco OTT – This topic is broader than just WebRTC; it relates to the challenges Telcos are facing in their competition with OTT players. The solution is not technical as the same technology is available to all. The challenge is in agility and capacity to innovate in the service and business model. In these type of services there is a need for asymmetric business models rather than the traditional per-minute/subscription models.
Staphane Tuffin from Orange Labs, presented congestion issues and why best effort service is not enough. He talked about managed VoIP and why it doesn’t apply for Web Communication service providers. Stephane proposed a solution for WebRTC network admission, identifying WebRTC traffic and ensuring QoS.
As part of the telecom API trend and launch of WebRTC API platforms by service providers, Maurizio De Paola from Telecom Italia presented the company’s EasyAPI, giving Web developers access to the Telecom Italia network. Maurizio showed a few examples of how services can combine users from Telecom Italia’s IMS network with non-Telecom Italia subscribers.
This is nicely aligned with what AT&T announced in their developer summit a short while before CES. A Developer API platform adds the ability to extend user’s mobile identity to the browser.
WebRTC client side
Telecom OTT is a hot topic, John Neystadt from Telefonica presented TU Go, the Telefonica OTT service that runs on different devices and browsers. John presented the reasons for launching TU Go, primarily to allow Telefonica’s 26 operators to offer their subscribers a way to extend the usage of their phone number to other devices.
There were many technical points to consider such as authentication, signalling and transport (decided on a JSON-based proprietary protocol over WebSockets) and how to GW TU Go into their network (they built their own GW for that purpose). Transcoding was, of course, a big topic as Opus is CPU intensive.
While last year, service providers were talking mainly about trials and architectures that combine WebRTC with IMS, this year the main discussion was about real services and issues service providers encounter. That in itself is another milestone in the maturity of WebRTC.