By Balaji TS, Global solutions and portfolio head – network services, Tech Mahindra
WebRTC (Web Realtime Communications) is a disruptive technology with the potential to transform the communications industry by enabling peer-to-peer video, audio and data communication between two web browsers without the need for downloads or plugins.
It combines a powerful set of communications tools with a large base of application developers and internet-enabled devices and, in short, undermines the legacy business models of traditional communications service providers (CSPs) by ‘uncoupling’ the service from the network and embedding real-time communications capabilities into the web browser.
The business opportunities around WebRTC are huge. It already has the backing of Google (which is pushing to add WebRTC to Android WebView), Mozilla and Opera, and powers the widely used WhatsApp audio calls, Google Hangout and Facebook Messenger.
Additionally, because it works on standard devices such as PC/Macs, smartphones and tablets, the existing user base is already large. According to a report from Analysys Mason, over 1 billion devices are already supported by WebRTC – a number which is expected to reach 7 billion by 2020.
At this point, we could expect to see 3.9 billion smartphones, 900 million tablets and 2.1 billion computers all with native WebRTC. In short, a lack of WebRTC-enabled devices would not be a barrier to adoption.
The benefits for Communications Service Providers
WebRTC supported services will usher in the next generation IT ecosystem of communications, applications, content and commerce, and some of the leaders in the WebRTC world are reporting significant traction. CSPs shouldn’t see WebRTC as a threat to existing revenue; if anything, it could improve margins on existing services as well as introduce new revenue streams.
CSPs provide a number of enterprise-oriented services, including hosted unified communications, hosted call centres and conferencing – all of which could benefit from the introduction of WebRTC.
General purpose communications products have usually been good enough, but the addition of WebRTC makes optimised and customised offerings easier to achieve. If CSPs fail to customise their services to the needs of their users, it’s highly likely that new players and other competitors will leverage the technology to provide better collaboration tools at a lower cost.
Consumer-facing enterprises are a key audience for a WebRTC offering. Public-facing websites are a key target for CSPs as the protocols behind WebRTC allow businesses to enhance their sites with click-to-call capabilities where customers can immediately talk to a real person.
This is one of the reasons that one of the most popular use case for WebRTC at the moment is video-enabled contact centres.CSPs providing this contact centres as a hosted service could easily introduce video into their existing infrastructure.
Conferencing is another CSP offering that would benefit from WebRTC; web conferencing alone is a billion-dollar industry with a user base that just continues to grow.
WebRTC not only makes conferencing smoother, but also opens up a myriad of opportunities for creating new and innovative applications to enhance the meeting experience.
A high quality video or audio connection to a conference bridge is invaluable to end users and CSPs could easily take advantage of existing billing and support relationships with their customers, saving them from having to deal with multiple providers.
Planning for the future
For CSPs, extending services to include WebRTC has a number of benefits. Most importantly, it means they can remain relevant and compete against services that are available across a multitude of devices – WhatsApp is one such example.
Despite the significant potential offered by WebRTC, many CSPs have been slow in adopting it when they should be exploring how it can make their services more relevant. The key takeaway here is that if CSPs fail to engage with WebRTC opportunities, they risk losing their relevance and becoming obsolete in an era defined by voice and video communications.