Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WebRTC – friend or foe of RCS?

At the Voice of Telecom we’ve taken several different looks at WebRTC and what it means for telcos, including, among other things, the role of IMS in the future of WebRTC and how to spot successful WebRTC partners. 

We’ve also written a lot about Joyn and RCS.  But what about the two together?

It might be easy to see the two technologies as competitors – one open source and the other a developing telecom standard.  But this would be short sighted, for comparing WebRTC and RCS head on is like comparing apples to oranges, not apples to apples.

Instead, the right answer for operators is not to choose between the two technologies – they must be viewed as complements.

To recap, WebRTC is a technology that enables web browsers to use a device’s camera and microphone to allow voice and video calls without the use of plugins. One of its main advantages is that it has lowered the barriers for smaller startups and developers to build real-time voice and video calling solutions, and, according to Disruptive Analysis, the one-billion-WebRTC-devices mark was reached earlier this year.

WebRTC is also currently the only existing soon-to-be standardized technology on the market to create horizontal cross-platform communication services, encompassing smartphones, tablets, PCs, laptops and TVs, which adds value for both consumers and enterprises.

WebRTC gives operators the opportunity to offer telephony services to more devices, such as PCs, tablets and TVs. By combining  existing IMS technologies, operators will be able to provide, for example, one-number services. WebRTC is not going to lead to increased revenues and profits on its own, but taking communications to the web can prevent revenues from plummeting and open up new and intriguing enterprise opportunities, particularly for consumer-facing companies initially but with far reaching implications in the future. There is also a great marketing value in WebRTC, showing that operators can stay relevant and encourage innovation. 

One important characteristic of WebRTC, however, is its lack of a standardized signaling layer, and it’s up to each service provider to decide how this is handled.  We discussed this in a post over the summer, and it remains crucial to locate a person and make a call.

This is where IMS and RCS come in. With RCS, operators can offer a wide range of services, including – on top of voice and video – chat, presence, address book, video share, image share and file transfer. It builds on the standards of the telecom industry with the connected quality and reliability.  

So how could an operator use WebRTC and RCS together?  A good example could be to expand the range of devices – such as PCs and tablets – that RCS could support.  An operator could do this by using the WebRTC media framework, IMS for find and connect, with the RCS services on top to give added value.

To give you a sense of the possibilities, earlier this year, analyst Doug Mohney wrote two posts at 
WebRTC world that discussed how RCS and WebRTC could effectively put most current OTT players out of business.  From his first post:
The bigger picture here is that OTT players are going to find themselves displaced by a combination of carrier supported and promoted services in RCS -- because at the end of the day, carriers want to have a large number of customer relationships  -- and WebRTC providing a one-stop shop for developing third-party apps that can tie into third-party services in ways we can't yet imagine.
This is only one possible scenario and RCS is one example of many, in which WebRTC is a potential complement for telcos and not disruptive.  If operators think creatively and are open to new technology and business models, we see many more ways to make the most of telecom and web technologies - working together, not separately.

By Christer Boberg for The Voice on Telecom


  1. Hi Christer

    I'm amused that you quote my forecasts of a billion WebRTC devices, but not my equally-emphatic criticisms of Joyn/RCS.

    My view is that WebRTC *might* make RCS marginally less-useless, either by extending its reach to (pre-installed) browsers rather than (downloaded) apps, or perhaps with some clever API bundling. However, I struggle to find any new & compelling use-cases this enables that don't also have multiple non-RCS substitutes. I also think it's going to be slow arriving, and even slower evolving, as it's locked into the usual sclerotic IMS/RCS standardisation process. It will also have to go through the usual internal telco hoops around OSS/BSS integration, regulatory compliance, testing etc, which will add months or years to deployment.

    My current recommendation to my telco clients is that they should definitely *look* at combining IMS & WebRTC, but it should be a maximum of 20-30% of their overall resources & effort put into WebRTC across their whole business. For operators, there are many quicker, more valuable, more innovative use-cases of WebRTC, and it's important not to centralise control & experimentation into the core network.

    Dean Bubley
    Disruptive Analysis

    1. Dean, thanks for the comment. I don’t think that our post was necessarily in contradiction with your comments, as our primary aim was to show that operators shouldn’t be afraid of using WebRTC to complement their business offerings. It’s not really a question of whether RCS is the sole answer. We see a combination of telco, web technology and partnering where needed as only positive, and we want to instead encourage operators to look into opportunities such as RCS and WebRTC in parallel. I agree that waiting for standards to happen will take too long time in many areas and RCS/IMS is not the only answer even there. Operators must look beyond to be successful in the long run. - Christer

  2. Clearly RCS & WebRTC are complementary. WebRTC makes easy to make voice & RCS messaging ubiquitous., and also telco-voice

    1. Great examples of the possible synergy. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi - Just sharing. We at OnSIP just launched a free WebRTC and SIP-based application, To explain the significance of WebRTC in the history of communications, we created this fun infographic:

    As explained in our blog, to date, GetOnSIP is the most stable and interoperable implementation of WebRTC and SIP. The OnSIP team has extended our platform to support SIP over WebSockets, allowing developers to utilize JavaScript SIP clients like JsSIP and sipML5 to build phones in a browser and register them with OnSIP. OnSIP currently supports voice and video calls between WebRTC supported browsers, as well as voice calling between standard SIP phones and WebRTC supported browsers; video calling is supported between some SIP software phones that utilize video codec VP8.

    So in summary, FRIEND, not Foe! As a VoIP Provider, we at OnSIP are excited to deliver this free offering and for what's to come.

  4. This design is ѕteller! You definіtely know hοω tο keep a reaԁer entertained.

  5. An operator can expand the range of devices by adopting a WebRTC media framework. WebRTC also will give option to the operator to have one-stop shop for developing third-party apps and can tie these to services. In this way, technology will become friend instead of foe. To jnow more about it contact Go4Customer.

  6. Thanks for sharing your honest experience. When I first took a look at my head shots,
    I wasn’t too thrilled with mine but you’ve given me a new perspective!