Blog post is co-written by Anne Lee, Chief Technology Officer of IMS Innovations at Alcatel-Lucent and recently recognized by the industry as a WebRTC pioneer and by Gilles Duboué, IP Platforms Innovation Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent.
The craze for WebRTC grows louder as its realization in the market begins to be marked with high profile adoptions such as in Google Hangouts, Amazon Mayday, and SnapChat’s AddLive solution. The formal standardization of WebRTC began in 2011. Early implementations by Google and Mozilla, on Chrome and Firefox respectively, followed shortly - beginning in 2012. And with the availability of developer versions of WebRTC on Chrome and Firefox, an ecosystem of proof-of-concept and early commercial products and solutions quickly emerged. Open source plug-ins are filling the gap in browsers that do not yet support WebRTC e.g. Internet Explorer. There is also clear progress being made in WebRTC standards for ORTC. Given this, we expect that WebRTC ORTC will likely be natively available on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer within the next 18 months.
This is exciting to witness after having initiated Alcatel-Lucent’s WebRTC work in 2011. Since then we have come a long way:
We are also engaging with 3rd party app partners, building a vibrant ecosystem of developers, who are integrating their innovative apps with our ORCA APIs and backend system, opening up new opportunities for service providers to capitalize on existing network investments and to enhance the customer experience.
With the growth in IP communications deployment and adoption of VoLTE services, discussions with telcos and enterprises have intensified. Many of these conversations are taking place at WebRTC dedicated public events such as Upperside’s WebRTC Expo Conference, Informa’s WebRTC World Summit and more recently TMCnet’s WebRTC Conference & Expo and IIR’s Next Generation Service Platform where Alcatel-Lucent hosted a VoLTE Innovation Hackathon providing an on-site virtualized platform with support for developers.
What’s clear is that service providers are now prototyping, trialing and integrating WebRTC gateway and services into their existing IP communications. This is happening even while open questions are still pending regarding use of plugins, building of WebRTC apps native to the device as well as in the browser, use of transcoding, federated versus island solutions, and technology maturity in areas of QoS, codecs, identity management, browser support, etc. And there are several reasons for this.
As mentioned by Stephane Cazeaux from Orange Labs during UpperSide’s WebRTC Expo Conference, the telco’s approach to WebRTC is primarily to pursue “access webification”, i.e., WebRTC enabling web access to existing telco services and improving the telco’s brand experience. An example is the New Conversation APIs enhanced version of the SIPPO Web Application Controller from Quobis, which won the first ever “fast tracking innovation” contest at the Conversations 2014 conference. It highlights the value of a common WebRTC client for legacy as well as new WebRTC-enabled services such as collaboration, B2C click-2-call, Gmail plug-in, etc.
But WebRTC doesn’t only make it possible for service providers to leverage the web for telco-based consumer and enterprise services (including B2B, B2C). Talking business strategies and opportunities at the UpperSide conference, Fabrizio Caffaratti from Telecom Italia differentiates the WebRTC retail model -- where WebRTC as a framework enables WebRTC distinctive and enriched retailed services -- from the WebRTC wholesale model -- where the service provider capability is to leverage the web ecosystem for the benefit of telco services (B2B2C) and to monetize telco WebRTC APIs exposure to third party developers. As an example, Apizee’s Web Call Center application integrates Alcatel-Lucent New Conversation APIs allowing RCS service continuity on the web.
The potential of WebRTC to positively impact IP communications is high. There are many use cases and business models being explored in both the consumer and enterprise markets. These scenarios leverage WebRTC for VoIP, video, and data channel-supported services. They include the use of WebRTC in browser as well as WebRTC implementations native to the device – providing a consistent approach to facilitate the realization of the vision for IP communications enablement of all IP connected devices, the Internet of Things. The possibilities are truly exciting and the craze is not stopping!