What WebRTC Means for Telcos
The API advantage
Vendors like Genband Inc. are counting on this, as well. It recently introduced a gateway, SpiDR, that sits at the network edge to bridge the wireless network with the web. Greg Zweig, the company's director of solutions marketing, says it lets operators sell WebRTC connectivity as a service, just as they sold 800 numbers as a service. It just takes a simple API and a browser to replace the soft client. Operators can provide the connectivity, but they can also sell the URL or API to add the functionality to a site. (See Genband Builds a Gateway to WebRTC.)
"With WebRTC, you are giving people an experience and the ability to add services to that experience," Zweig says. "The service provider has a new avenue to reach that customer and expose new services."
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), too, is playing in the WebRTC space. It has its own developer program in which APIs are built directly into its products and open to developers. Ed Elkin, marketing director for advanced communication solutions at Alcatel-Lucent, says a big draw for enterprises to WebRTC has simply been the ability to make the tablet an extension of the mobile phone.
For example, Quobis, an AlcaLu customer, built an app using the vendor's IMS that integrates WebRTC into Salesforce, so that an enterprise employee can take a call from Salesforce.com on a phone or tablet or move it in between.
Elkin sees WebRTC as the perfect win-win(-win) for it, the network operators, and enterprises. Enterprises get dramatic cost reductions and a huge boost in productivity from the cloud and mobility aspects of the platform, and they can blend IT and community together, as Salesforce.com did. The service provider selling connectivity to the enterprise clearly benefits from the business, and AlcaLu can tap into an entirely new market.
"Everyone who loses is the old legacy customer premise vendors selling high-margin equipment that's very expensive," he says. "The enterprise saves money and gets more functionality. Service providers get a whole new line of business beyond traditional enterprise trunking, and we make good business doing this at the cost of the old CPE vendors."
But that is true only if operators act -- and sooner rather than later. WebRTC is a magnifier for carriers, as Bubley explains it. If they are already experimenting with over-the-top content and innovative services around video, they are likely ecstatic about the opportunity. If they are the type that's scared of Skype and SnapChat, it's only going to get a whole lot worse with WebRTC. His advice is to start experimenting, and not just from one part of the core network business, but several. See what sticks through trial by fire, much as Telefonica did with its digital division.
"This is one of those areas where there is the ability for individual groups to innovate," Bubley says. "That's ultimately going to drive success. It's a web technology. If it's treated like a web tech, that's good. If it's treated like a telecom tech, it will come with those disadvantages, as well."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading