John Logsdon, CEO and founder of NetDev, and Tsahi Levent-Levi, director of business solutions at Amdocs, discuss the implications for operators of WebRTC.
Eurocomms.com: Why is WebRTC set to be such a disruptor in the communications world?
John Logsdon: WebRTC has the power to transform the webpage into a real-time multimedia communications platform in a way not previously seen before.
Voice and video are being further unlocked as a resource and made available to the creativity of today’s web development community.
Operators will have to compete not just with OTT providers but also with web developers, as WebRTC will enable communications to be embedded into any webpage.
It’s also an opportunity to revitalise many traditional products; so there are wins there as well.
Tsahi Levent-Levi: WebRTC does two things to VoIP and real-time communications: it provides free access to technologies that were available to a select few; and it enhances the ecosystem of developers that can use this technology from media engineers to web developers.
How should mobile operators address WebRTC?
TLL: They should embrace it. It is not going to replace their own telephony services any time soon, but it is going to increase the ways people communicate.
JL: There is no set formula when it comes to mobile operators and addressing new technologies, especially when the technology could potentially be seen as a threat on their revenues.
However, they cannot afford to simply ignore WebRTC. A number of mobile operators are already running innovation and incubation projects aimed at exploring the potential of WebRTC as an enabler rather than a threat.
By taking a ‘mobile first’ angle they have the opportunity to tie into the increasingly mobile needs of both the business and consumer customer.
What specific opportunities can WebRTC bring to mobile operators?
JL: WebRTC will enable operators to utilise the web as another platform to deliver their services. It will allow operators to tap into unaddressed markets through web-play and move away from the traditional telephony communications role.
It also offers the opportunity to control an OTT service. Even giving traditional products such as call centre services, VPNs and web hosting services a mobile web first refresh will extend the appeal of mobile operator business portfolios.
TLL: The most obvious one is providing Quality of Service capabilities to those who use WebRTC and need such guarantees. But if you dig a bit deeper, there are a lot more opportunities:
• Implementing a native WebRTC client that can interact with RCS and VoLTE
• Providing WebRTC-related infrastructure as a service to developers
• Implementing the identity mechanism that doesn't exist in WebRTC
• Remodelling their own internal contact centres around WebRTC
• Selling (or reselling) WebRTC-based communication solutions to their enterprise customers.
Telefonica Digital recently acquired TokBox, which offers an API for developers to build their own Flash/WebRTC video calling services, and it will be interesting to see how they develop this.
How will mobile operators be able to monetise these opportunities?
TLL: The first thing that comes to mind here is the fact that WebRTC is a real threat to OTT players. Embracing WebRTC can weaken OTTs and make it easier for operators to compete in this market.
It can also be used as a driver for internal and external innovation and a platform for rapid release of communication services – things that operators are finding challenging today.
JL: One way would be to monetise their own web-play. Operators can adopt a blended approach, using WebRTC-enabled web applications with their traditional telephony voice services. This will add value to their existing services and allow for monetisation of their web apps through offering it as a subscription or bundled service.
In many cases, WebRTC offers mobile operators the ability to extend their enterprise portfolio to the desktop with a low cost of entry and a high innovation capability. That’s monetisable.
Precisely how will WebRTC affect OTT players?
JL: WebRTC has the ability to completely replace any OTT application. Currently, OTT applications only allow for peer-to-peer communication through the same downloaded app.
However, the open nature of WebRTC will enable any webpage to become a communication platform. WebRTC is a far bigger threat to OTT players than anyone else in the communications industry.
TLL: Traditional OTT players rely on communicating within their own island of users and monetising mainly through ad service or interconnection fees.
The islands they create are threatened by social networks and other websites and services who just want to add communication capabilities: what happens to Skype the moment Facebook decides to adopt WebRTC and offer that directly to its users? What percentage of Skype's calls will vanish overnight?
What are the biggest challenges operators face as a result of WebRTC launching?
JL: WebRTC is still in its infancy, but the biggest challenge that operators will face is how quick they can be to identify the services that they can monetise and then adopt the technology.
They will need to be rapid enough to develop services that subscribers want to use and not get stuck in difficult or drawn-out development cycles.
Traditionally operators take years to adjust to technology developments, but the main hurdle they face is being able to move quickly and shift the business.
TLL: Operators aren't an easy partner to deal with – at least not if you compare the uptake they've had to their own OTT and API initiatives with those of start-up companies.
While they are well positioned in offering their own WebRTC services, operators will need to find ways to entice developers to adopt their services – not an easy task.
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