Real Time Communications Featured Article

What is Real Time Communications?

April 23, 2014

We live in an era of real-time – we expect to find information when we want it, answers when we need them and access to find both of these on our own. Self-service, social media, live chat, video conferencing and unified communications and collaboration are all possible today because of developments in real-time communications.

Real-time communication is a means of sharing information and interacting with people through network connections just as if they were face-to-face. Digging into the technicalities a little deeper, it’s any live (real-time) telecommunications that doesn’t have transmission delays – it’s usually a peer-to-peer connection with minimal latency, and data from a real-time communications application is sent in a direct path between the source and destination.

Examples of Real-Time Communications

There’s a difference between emailing and chatting with someone. Email is more of a timeshifting form of communication – we send emails and expect to hear back from people later, and data is stored between the source and destination. Communicating through methods like email place more emphasis on delivering information reliably, not how quickly the information gets there. When chatting with someone, however, we expect responses just as if we were communicating face-to-face: in real-time.

Other examples beyond instant messaging of real-time communications include:

  • Video conferencing
  • Presence (usually found in UC applications)
  • Gaming
  • File sharing
  • Screen sharing
  • Collaboration tools
  • Machine to machine technology
  • Location tracking
  • Online education
  • Social networking

Real-time communications applications and solutions can be used in virtually every industry: contact centers, financial services, legal firms, healthcare, education and retail can all benefit and improve processes with real-time communications applications. There are a few trends in play that are helping drive the growth of real-time communications applications.


One big keyword you will hear related to real-time communications is WebRTC. WebRTC, or Web-based real-time communications, is an HTML5 technology that delivers on the promise of real-time communications: it uses peer-to-peer connections to enable plugin-free communication over a browser. Currently, Chrome, Mozilla and Opera are the browsers supporting WebRTC as the technology undergoes standardization. There are three APIs used to develop a WebRTC application: getUserMedia (MediaStream) for access to data streams such as a camera and microphone, RTCPeerConnection for audio or video calling with encryption and bandwidth management capabilities, and RTCDataChannel for peer-to-peer communication of data.


The other key trend fueling the growth of real-time communications is mobility: We have access to the same information, features and functionality on our mobile devices as on our desktop computers. Being able to complete tasks and communicate from anywhere at any time has been a big driver in the growth of real-time communications. Keeping this in mind, service providers need to focus on how to transform IP networks in terms of scalability, security and efficiency as real-time communications grows, and how to make these services available on any device on both public and private networks.

The Real-Time Communications Community will cover the latest news, trends, resources and updates in the space – stay tuned for information on companies, analysts, industry professionals and solutions impacting the development of this next-generation technology.

Over-the-Top (OTT)

The growth in mobility is also in line with another driver in the growth of real-time communications: over-the-top (OTT) services. OTT services run over a network and are not offered by that network operator – Hulu, Netflix, Skype and WhatsApp are all examples of OTT applications. In addition to third-party applications, there are also other OTT alternatives, such as OS-specific communication systems like iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger. These applications take advantage of the benefits of Internet-based communication and capabilities of today’s smart devices.

Smartphones and other mobile devices have revolutionized OTT services such as voice and video over wireless networks, offering multimedia and advanced communication functions and furthering the development and delivery of real-time communications. But the impact off the rise in OTT applications on service providers isn’t all bad – they have the option to embrace the technology and apply services of their own to drive traffic onto their networks, extend their networks’ reach and retain subscribers quickly and cost-effectively.

These key drivers are just part of the real-time communications ecosystem the Real-Time Communications community will cover – stay tuned for the latest news, trends, resources and analysis.

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