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WebRTC: An Important Key to Operator Relevance

March 29, 2016

The rise of the app in communication and collaboration is continuing, giving WebRTC momentum as operators roll out offerings to compete with over-the-top (OTT) threats.

Exact Ventures points out that messaging and other social media applications are becoming the focal point for the communications experience, not the dialer app. OTT collaboration services like Slack, Atlassian's HipChat and Glip by RingCentral have laid down the gauntlet on this—along with Cisco's Spark, Unify's Circuit and Mitel's MiCollab.

“Often users can access voice and video communications functionality, as well as other functions like payments, photos, location and transportation, through the messaging app,” said Greg Collins, an analyst with Exact Ventures, in a recent column. “For example, Facebook recently integrated Uber (and soon Lyft) into its Messenger application. And Facebook's Businesses for Messenger will direct users from a business's website to the business's Facebook Messenger account.”

For mobile operators, this lessens the relevance of the network-based native services that they provide as the hallmark of their offering—like voice and text. And, OTT providers are increasingly developing features and targeting business markets that have long been the domain of the traditional wireline and wireless service providers. WebRTC offers a competitive response—and allows operators to integrate OTT-like functionality into their services. AT&T's Enhanced WebRTC API is a prime example of this.

For instance, with WebRTC and via SIM cards, mobile operators can extend their services to devices that are not registered on their networks.

“By logging into a mobile operator's WebRTC-enabled portal, a user could direct all of his or her incoming voice, messaging and application traffic to a Web portal,” explained Collins. “The user could then access that Web portal through a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet accessing the network via WiFi, or even through a flat-screen television or wearable device.”

Exact Ventures recently revised its WebRTC gateway revenue forecast upwards, based on the continued maturation of the standards work and increased competitive imperative among service providers and enterprises. It forecasts that the market for WebRTC gateways and associated service revenues will reach $900 million in 2020, growing by an average of 82% per year.

“WebRTC, and the network elements that support the technology, are poised for tremendous growth in the coming years,” Collins said. “WebRTC is not as much of a standalone technology or service, but rather it is a key building block for another major trend in communications, embedded or contextual communications.”

He added that WebRTC gateways, which help WebRTC communicate with SIP, the prevailing VoIP protocol in enterprises and operator IMS networks, are due to become key network elements in the coming years.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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