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Leadership / Strategy

WebRTC – the £1bn problem for operators

WebRTC is becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to engage with their customers, but what about the issues it poses for the traditional operators? CBR spoke to Mark Windle, head of marketing at OpenCloud, to find out his thoughts.

Despite the shift to online engagement, as customers, sometimes we just want someone to talk to. As a result, businesses still value enabling telephone contact from their customers and prospects. Where a potential sale exists, they even encourage it by providing a single Freephone number to remove the financial barrier to calling.

However, the internet is about to change how we make "telephone calls". Consumer to Business (C2B) communications may be one of the first areas that experience this change. WebRTC and HTML5 allow real-time voice and video communication from within the browser itself, without the need for plug-ins.

This means you will be able to visit the web site of a business, simply activate "click to call" and the website application will do the rest. No need to find a phone and dial the digits as you read them off the screen. Instead, just one click and the browser uses your device’s speaker, microphone (and camera, if you want) to make the call. More significantly, the call traffic will travel apparently for free over the internet, directly to the hosting website or system. And this will be available across smartphones, tablet devices, smart TVs, cars and a whole host of other, yet to be conceived, browser-enabled devices.

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There are two very big reasons as to why businesses will embrace WebRTC for their C2B communications. A better, more tightly integrated and contextual calling experience provides one side of the motivation. WebRTC delivers the call to the business with all the contextual information from the caller’s interaction with the website, such as which products they’ve looked at and which page they are calling from. The other big reason for businesses to be interested is the £1B+ per annum they are spending with telecom operators in the UK alone to provide this C2B communication. With WebRTC, businesses have the opportunity to serve their customers better and, at the same time, make a large saving in their telecom costs.

So, operators’ Freephone revenues may be about to take a hit, but WebRTC still provides Telcos with a business opportunity.

Telcos already play a key role in number management and call routing, call queuing and general telecoms/IT integration in large firms. Adding WebRTC as an additional access mechanism will provide an alternative revenue stream. Smaller businesses, that form the huge majority of businesses, will also want WebRTC on their websites and on online "yellow pages". Many will want WebRTC calls from customers to reach them on their mobiles. With the signalling required to establish a WebRTC call undefined by the standards, each implementation is likely to differ. Enabling calls between "networks" using different protocols is a problem familiar to telecoms operators.

Providing WebRTC-based enterprise telephony, and WebRTC-to-WebRTC integration hubs may well prove to be a significant communications interconnect opportunity for the telecoms industry. However, if they don’t move quickly enough to take the lead, the WebRTC opportunity will be seized upon by more nimble IT vendors.

Mark Windle is Head of Marketing at OpenCloud

This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.