Real Time Communications Featured Article

Europe's Love Affair with Real Time Communications

April 15, 2015

Real time communications (RTC) should be a booming business in Europe, if market studies over the past few years are to be believed.  It makes sense, since the fundamentals for videoconferencing technology have moved from dedicated systems and hardware to off-the-shelf apps and tablets while broadband rates continue downward.

Infonetics Research noted the video conferencing hardware and software market grew 24 percent sequentially in the last quarter of 2014, topping $1 billion.  Endpoint shipments were up 39 percent in 2014, to 15 million, driven mainly by software. Frost and Sullivan predicted that the European videoconferencing market is expected to grow from $1.79 billion in 2013 to $2.58 billion in 2019.

"Robust conferencing software caters to two key trends in the modern workplace; more collaborative work environments and the need to work remotely with ease,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Senior Research Analyst, Vaishno Devi Srinivasan. “Since conferencing solutions are well aligned to the latest developments in the working environment, service providers in this space are likely to taste considerable success over the forecast period.”

As a total market, audio conferencing is around 66 percent in 2013.  By 2019, audio conferencing is expected to drop to 51 percent, while web conferencing alone will claim more than a quarter of a market. Meanwhile, videoconferencing -- with an emphasis on hosted solutions -- is expected to grow at a double digit compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2019.

via Shutterstock

Compounding acceleration of videoconferencing in Europe, according to Frost and Sullivan, are lower costs and unified communication (UC) bundling that includes conferencing features.  But conferencing providers need to provide a demonstrated return on investment (ROI) for their users, both in terms of "hard-dollar" direct benefit and "soft benefit" results for using conferencing in the workplace.

The flip side to RTC communications in Europe is a decrease in service provider revenues due to declining price points brought on by more competition and recovery from the recent economic downturn.  Pure play conferencing services are losing market share to service providers offering the aforementioned UC bundles with conferencing features.

WebRTC is expected to play a major role in Europe.  Estimates range up to 4.2 billion WebRTC enabled (i.e. browser-using) devices by 2016, enabling anyone who can download a compatible browser access to voice and video conferencing tools.  Combine the low cost of entry to build WebRTC applications and the ubiquity of WebRTC availability across mobile and desktop platforms , including the forthcoming embed of WebRTC into the new version of Microsoft Windows this year and anyone is going to be able to pull up voice and video  conferencing .

However, RTC still has any number of rough edges to smooth out.  Google still hasn't lined up to support the H.264 video codec.  Supporting H.264 provides a legacy path for existing videoconferencing equipment to work with WebRTC-based solutions. Given the amount of resources the enterprise world has invested in H.264 hardware and software, Microsoft and Cisco have lined up to support the video codec.   Google may find itself being "incompatible" with the standard it helped to create if it can't find a way to get onboard with including legacy gear.

Real time discussion of RTC trends is taking place this week at the WebRTC global summit in London.  GENBAND and its WebRTC service Kandy are sponsoring and participating. Kandy is also sponsoring the TADHack WebRTC London Hackathon

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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