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WebRTC & the Rise of the WebCo

WebRTC is a big opportunity for telcos, but it's a technology that could shape up without them. Heard this story before?

Sarah Thomas

February 28, 2014

2 Min Read
WebRTC & the Rise of the WebCo

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- There's a big opportunity for telecom service providers in WebRTC, but as with many emerging communications services and apps, there's also a big possibility they'll get cut out of the equation.

WebRTC is a free, open source project that turns supported web browsers into telephony engines. Essentially, any business or individual with a website could use the peer-to-peer technology to enable click-to-call, video chat, or multi-party collaboration directly from their site, without the need to download an app or plug in. (See Decoding WebRTC's Promise & Challenges .)

So why should operators care? Well, for one thing, they have the world's largest address book at their fingertips, in addition to their networks. WebRTC gives them a new way to reach their customers and enhance that interaction with multi-party video, quality of service, and a community that's not limited by requiring everyone to be members. (See Genband Builds a Gateway to WebRTC.)

Having an operator involved also means that a business or end user could accept incoming calls. That's a big limitation of WebRTC: As a web tech, its users can only call out.

Yet, while WebRTC would benefit from a cellular network, it could just as easily ride over it. That's why Andrew Goldberg, SVP of marketing and strategy at Dialogic Corp. (Nasdaq: DLGC), thinks WebRTC could turn any WebCo into a telco. He thinks this model would be particularly appealing to a social networking giant such as Facebook or a communications provider such as Twilio Inc. (NYSE: TWLO) or Viber.

His logic is that people are increasingly known by their identity rather than their phone number. A WebCo could get in on the trend of becoming a data mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and offer the voice calling via WebRTC without a PSTN and a data identity for messaging. Dialogic provides the media server to enable this, and Goldberg said the company is in trials with Tier 1 telcos in the US, but he also sees the standard evolving quickly in the web world too.

"WebRTC empowers anyone to become a WebCo overnight," Goldberg said. "It's a question of, who wants to innovate most quickly?"

I have my doubts about a site such as Facebook becoming a virtual mobile service provider (for many reasons). Those rumors have been brought up and shut down several times over. But, the point is, it could happen. When it comes to innovating quickly, that's a game telcos tend to lose. WebRTC is yet another way for them to be cut out of the equation, and it's yet another technology they shouldn't ignore.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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