Why WebRTC is the next phase of real-time communications

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Kevin Riley, senior vice president, Engineering and chief technology officer at Sonus, said 2016 marks the five-year anniversary of WebRTC, an industry-wide initiative that looks to bring real-time voice and video communications to web-browsers and mobile apps.

Since it was first introduced, WebRTC has been the subject of much speculation. Some believe it to be a game changer for communications, much like the “Worldwide Web” before it. Others see it as a smaller role player in the wider communications fabric. However, both can agree on one point: businesses are no longer just talking about WebRTC, but actually implementing it in their networks.

In its 2015 WebRTC State-of-the-Market Report, Webtorials, an online community for IT professionals, noted that nearly half of all enterprises surveyed (47 percent) had either deployed WebRTC applications or were planning to do so in the next 12 months. While the report shows clear market momentum for WebRTC, it also highlights some of the uncertainty still surrounding WebRTC. For example, nearly one in three enterprises does not have any future plans for WebRTC, and many enterprises worry that a lack of standardization and industry-wide acceptance could hinder its effectiveness.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to WebRTC’s future success is the bottom line. Many businesses don’t have a clear vision of how WebRTC applications will reduce costs, drive revenue, create competitive differentiation and improve customer service—criteria that are critical to making the business case for the technology. In order to help demystify WebRTC and explain why many of us in the industry are excited at its arrival, let me illustrate a few business cases that depict why WebRTC is the next phase of real-time communications.

WebRTC Can Drive Down Costs

For many businesses, multichannel marketing is essential to acquiring and retaining profitable customers. This is especially true for “big box” retailers that spend a significant amount of capital maintaining both a physical and virtual presence. For today’s consumer, “multichannel” means more than stores and websites; it includes call centers and mobile applications as well.

One of the highest costs in a call center is the toll-free number service that businesses need to provide for free customer calls—since it isn’t a free service to the business that provides it. However, by embedding WebRTC into its online and mobile channels, retailers can significantly reduce the number of calls that utilize the toll-free number service and thus drive down their operational costs without impacting customer convenience or quality of service.

WebRTC Can Drive Revenue

WebRTC can also play a fundamental role in driving sales growth, especially in the service industry where real-time customer interaction is of prime importance. For instance, in the travel industry, interaction with live agents is at a premium, which often translates into long wait times. Anyone who has missed their flight can appreciate the frustration of being at the back of the line when time is limited. Now, imagine being able to reach a live ticket agent from your mobile phone in moments who can help you find a new flight all without having to wait on the line. Not surprisingly, airlines, hotels and car rental agencies have a heavy interest in WebRTC’s ability to give them a real-time customer advantage — especially one that could be marketed as a premium service to drive additional revenue.

WebRTC Can Improve Customer Service

Our last example clearly had a customer service upside, but the value of WebRTC is even more pronounced when companies combine its real-time capabilities to create better customer conversations. In the Asia Pacific region, WebRTC can play a vital role in driving customer interactions in the area of telemedicine, a key necessity in the region.

Boasting over one billion smartphone users, citizens across the region can leverage their mobile Internet connectivity to have on-demand access to healthcare professionals, right at their fingertips. This is especially beneficial to those residing in rural areas where getting access to medical facilities and professionals can be challenging. As patients and healthcare professionals can communicate real-time, utilizing WebRTC can result to an easier and more convenient consultation process for both parties.

Right now, you may be thinking, “this all sounds great, but how do I get started?” As with many network technologies, it starts with integration. WebRTC is simple to use, but it can be complex to integrate into an existing network infrastructure or application environment. It is important for enterprises wanting to deploy WebRTC to look for vendors that have simplified the integration process through their solutions offering.

These include WebRTC gateways that interconnect WebRTC and SIP sessions in order to support communications across the widest possible ecosystem of browsers, devices and appliances. Additionally, it would also be advantageous if companies work with a vendor that offers a toolkit to simplify the creation of reliable WebRTC applications, as this can help web and application developers drastically speed up time-to-market of these next generation communication applications.

One thing is for certain: the business-to-consumer conversation is going to get a lot more interesting in the coming year as new WebRTC applications emerge.
Kevin Riley, senior vice president, Engineering and chief technology officer at Sonus
By Kevin Riley, senior vice president, Engineering and chief technology officer at Sonus