By Ed Elkin, Platforms Marketing Director, Alcatel-Lucent.
I communicate all day long, but it’s certainly bifurcated between voice on the one hand and the web on the other. The recent Consumer Electronics Show showed me how this is going to change for the better. Today’s separation between telecom and the web will soon be bridged by a new technology, referred to as Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC).
Technically, WebRTC equips a browser with a standardized structure for communications clients, consisting of native functions for audio, video and data exchange – and that’s cool for the side of me that enjoys technology. Appealing to my business side, WebRTC is a catalyst for innovation because it reduces the heavy work of interworking clients between devices and browsers, and because it avoids the tedious download and installation of thick, heavy clients. That combination of technical and business niceties explains why fast movers in the industry are excited by WebRTC. By the way, the WebRTC standards are coordinated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and WebRTC has strong engagement across both established and startups from various domains including browser manufacturers, app developers, service providers, and network vendors. Already Google Chrome includes it as of Release 23 and Firefox begins to include it as of Release 20. It’s happening, and it’s happening fast.
At CES 2013, WebRTC was highlighted in my Smartphone Trends panel and in Alcatel-Lucent’s booth where I met with service providers and application developers.
In Alcatel-Lucent’s booth at CES (see the video), our demonstrations melded several third-party applications with our network technology, creating new service concepts by which service providers can earn new revenues. When talking with service providers, their key question to me was how to stimulate the app developers (read this blog post about APIs). So I explained that during tradeshows two years ago, it was a big challenge for folks who weren’t intimately familiar with IMS and SIP. Yet in this year’s booth I easily pointed to five of our twelve demos where app developers used our New Conversation APIs and our WebRTC to simplify how their apps used voice, video, presence and messaging. The result was that these specialized app developers (who understand and have neat ideas about healthcare providers, proximity radio apps, digital signage and fleet management) were freed to create a great app while easily incorporating advanced communications from an IMS service provider.
Ed Elkin at the smartphone trends panel at CES
When the Smartphone Trends panel’s discussion turned to WebRTC (see the video), it was all about breaking down barriers. I think WebRTC will remake smartphones, blurring the boundary of how we communicate on phones and consumer electronic devices. Already I see that a key smartphone feature is the network to which it is connected, with LTE boosting usage and speeding the mobile broadband ecosystem’s innovation cycle. The next step that distinguishes smartphones is the core networks’ service control that bridges telecom and web. Networks that have it will enable me to readily communicate across any of my devices, apps or websites, using the fuller human dynamic of seamless voice, video and messaging.
When I look to the future, I see that that the service providers who can bridge telecom and the web are those who use Alcatel-Lucent IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). Already it is equipped with those New Conversation APIs, which turn our IMS into a platform for rapid innovation. With WebRTC, that innovation is extended from things that look like phones to any consumer electronic device that has a browser. The result is a remake of the service providers’ competitive field, enabling them to re-engage consumers, enterprises and app developers. That’s the excitement, and it’s driving a lot of fast movers.
Bridging telecom and the web is a challenge, but the rewards are huge because it moves communications from being a traditional service to communications as a feature inside of apps, websites and browsers (see a demo in the video below). At Alcatel-Lucent we’ve thought about how to do this and we’ve simplified the technology. However, service providers themselves need to think differently when designing, deploying and pricing such services. I encourage you to learn about this by coming to our booth, 3B 114, at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, during February 25-28, 2013. Meet me there so that we can talk about it and you can see our WebRTC demonstrations.