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10 January 2013
WebRTC is a standard under development by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) designed to enable browser-to-browser applications for audio, video and peer-to-peer file sharing without additional plug-ins.
This represents a significant step
forward from the days of the original HTTP technology, where
browsers could only make requests to return pages, and could
lead to applications like Instagram and Skype within a browser,
live video streaming via mobile phones and easy file
It will also enable a web developer to code RTC capabilities
into their web page for web browsers without problems
associated with development and deployment.
Google is one of the main players
leading the development of WebRTC with an open source project
to enable developers to easily implement their own RTC web
applications. The open source aspect of
Googleâ€™s offering is particularly important
as it has made the technology available to reuse, modify and
create derivatives, preventing control by a closed group of
engineers or companies.
Google used its acquisition of Global IP Solutions to provide
the core components of its WebRTC platform and the latest
version of its browser, Google Chrome, is WebRTC enabled.
Microsoft has also given support to WebRTC but has proposed a
different approach named CU-RTC-Web. The IT giant has an
interest in the manner in which WebRTC develops as it will have
a major impact on its subsidiary Skype and other messaging
applications in its portfolio.
Skype has been working on a browser-based version of its
software but Microsoft is reportedly not keen to support WebRTC
on its own browser, Internet Explorer, until the standard has
The company also believes the current draft standard for the
technology falls short as it shows no signs of real world
interoperability with existing VoIP phones and mobile phones,
from behind firewalls and across routers and does not allow an
application to control how media is transmitted on the
Opera and Mozilla Firefox are planning to support WebRTC
by implementing the getUserMedia API into their browsers, but
Apple, which develops the Safari browser, has so far been quiet
on its intentions for WebRTC.
The framework of WebRTC is still
under development and it is likely to take some time before the
standard becomes widely adopted but it is expected to disrupt
telecoms companies, video conferencing providers and OTT
players in the future.
This is because the technology is not bound to any legacy
infrastructure and is able to use both peer-to-peer and
Phil Edholm, president and founder of PKE Consulting, suggests
WebRTC will enable each website to essentially become its own
â€œservice providerâ€ without a
requirement for any relationship to a party outside of itself
and the user it is enabling to communicate.
For carriers, WebRTC can be
considered both a threat and an opportunity as it will disrupt
communications services but also present a new source of
revenue for those willing to embrace it.
In order to pursue opportunities in WebRTC, Tsahi Levent-Levi,
director of business solutions at Amdocs, suggests that
carriers should engage with the web developer community and
deliver value to WebRTC applications and services.
Some of the opportunities he earmarks include session-based
charging for WebRTC, merging the carrier instant messaging
platform Rich Communications Services (RCS) with WebRTC,
quality of service assurance premiums on WebRTC communications
and offering server side infrastructure components to enable
WebRTC as a service to customers.
In addition, offering WebRTC termination to PSTN and GSM
networks and WebRTC signalling are also considered viable
opportunities for carriers to generate revenue.
On the OTT side, services like Skype and Lync are likely to be
impacted by the introduction of WebRTC. The majority of OTT
business models revolve around reaching as many users as
possible but restricting them within the confines of a
downloadable application or client, preventing communication
between two different services such as WhatsApp and
WebRTC places control firmly in the hands of the user by
removing the need to download individual clients for each
vendor and to create a user ID, while also removing
restrictions imposed by a lack of cross client compatibility.
This will force many of todayâ€™s OTT players
To change their business model to remain competitive.
One carrier that has already
invested in the WebRTC space is TelefÃ³nica,
through its acquisition of TokBox in October 2012.
TokBox is a specialist in live video-based communications
services through websites and mobile applications and
TelefÃ³nica said it plans to use the
companyâ€™s OpenTok Video Platform to offer
business and consumer customers cross platform web-based video
The Spanish carrier plans to offer the solution both directly
through custom solutions and through the provision of APIs and
applications, allowing businesses and developers to produce
their own services.
Other carriers that are investigating opportunities in WebRTC
include AT&T, France Telecom-Orange and Deutsche
World Wide Web Consortium,
Internet Engineering Task Force,