Real Time Communications Featured Article

How Net Neutrality Could Impact Real-Time Communications, and What We Can Do to Protect Them

April 10, 2015

Facilities-based communications service providers and their equipment suppliers have long talked about the need for these companies to move beyond simply offering dumb pipes by delivering innovative new services that leverage their network resources.

Much of that thinking to date has revolved around the idea that companies like telcos,  could create new revenue opportunities for themselves by building different tiers of connectivity, which they could then sell to over-the-top companies like Netflix and Google. However, the Federal Communications Commission on Feb. 26 voted to reclassify broadband Internet access under Title II, which bans paid prioritization – or fast lanes – for specific traffic. And that is likely to not only result in legal challenges by the telcos and other broadband operators, but also to spur new thinking from these players.

A February article in Sci-Tech Today quotes Gartner analyst Aksay Sharma saying of the new FCC network neutrality rules: "This is going to be interesting as [communications services providers] may feel disincentivized in becoming just a 'bit-pipe.' However, CSPs that have innovative services that they can differentiate on can become an OTT themselves."

At that point, Sharma mentioned that unified communications as a service, video capabilities, and offerings based on the real-time communications technology known as WebRTC could enable that differentiation for service providers.

But while the new net neutrality rules may create new momentum for WebRTC, they could also mean new challenges for real-time communications. That’s because without prioritization, real time communications that require specific performance to avoid jitter, latency, and loss (and that’s pretty much all RTC) could suffer.

As Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting LLC, writes in the April issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine: “I believe we do need a way to prioritize real-time traffic – or we will suffer the consequences. If we are not able to segregate real-time communications, we could see a dramatic reduction in quality. And that will add to the other issues that are already degrading voice quality.”

However, Edholm does propose a solution to the problem. He believes that the FCC and other governing bodies should consider instituting what Edholm refers to as the 10 percent rule. That is, guaranteeing 10 percent of available Internet capacity for priority traffic.

“I believe that, as the FCC considers the new proposals for net neutrality and as other political bodies get involved, a consideration of 10 percent for real-time traffic is a critical concept to discuss,” he says. “If everyone will consider the needs of the real-time market and not just streaming and other one-way services, we will create a thriving new community through WebRTC. A wide variety of real-time services depend on the Internet to deliver the quality that users and businesses demand.” 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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