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