WebRTC – An Introduction

Hot on the heels of VoIP a second revolution is sweeping the industry, and voice and video chat is moving to the web. Now, with WebRTC any device that supports Chrome, Firefox and Opera can be enabled for real time communication – voice, video, and data sharing. Furthermore, developers can easily incorporate these features into any web or mobile application. The communication can also be peer to peer, meaning there is no servers required or even a service provider you can call friends directly bypassing real or VoIP telephone networks.

For example to call a friend, you won’t need to pick up the phone or open a VoIP application such as Skype or Line you’ll simply be able to use your own browser’s calling feature.

This means that there will be no need to remember or store friends or business phone numbers as they will become increasingly irrelevant. Because voice and video calling are features that your browser supports, voice and video chat mobile and desktop apps can be readily mashed-up using a simple API. As the apps identify the people in your WebRTC networks by name, phone numbers are increasingly redundant.



What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is a new protocol that has been designed to allows browser to browser voice and video conversations without the need of locally installed applications. The purpose of WebRTC is to provide real time communications between computers supporting a web browser without the need for any other application. WebRTC can provide real time voice communications over the internet as well as real time video chat and even P2P file sharing.

WebRTC is supported by Google amongst others in the W3C (world wide web consortium) and is a function of the user’s web browser that calls an API that was initially released as open source by Google in 2011. Since then, other in the W3C have collaborated to standardize and improve the WebRTC functionality making it accessible to third parties. Advanced features of WebRTC are supported on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Opera. WebRTC is also supported on Android and Apple IOS browsers for mobile devices. However Microsoft and Apple have not so far committed to the project, although there are extensions available for Microsoft Explorer that support WebRTC.


The Benefits of WebRTC for Users

The main benefit s of WebRTC is that it enables developers to construct Skype style voice and video applications without having to deal with the complex underlying coding. WebRTC enables developers to add all kinds of real time communication such as audio, video and text between users into their applications simply by referencing and calling an API. Using WebRTC bears different benefits for different types of user. For end users using their computer browsers to communicate with others, it has two major advantages:

  • Ease of use: Real-time communication is supported without the need for additional applications or plugin, for example Skype which requires you download and register their application.
  • Security: WebRTC enforces the usage of encryption for both the data – voice and video – and the also the transparent signalling which controls the data flows between end points. As a result, WebRTC provides a higher security level than most currently available commercial VoIP telephony systems that do not typically encrypt the voice, video or control signalling.


The Benefits for Enterprises

For enterprises and large businesses WebRTC can provide even more benefits:

  • Reduced costs: Voice, video and chat are all free, or rather at no extra cost as they travel over your existing internet connection. Therefore, you can save considerably especially on expensive long distance landline and mobile telephone calls.
  • Save on the costs of toll-free telephone number for call centers. This is a major saving for enterprise contact centers that can run to 10s or 100s of thousand dollars per year. Instead of paying for toll-free numbers and customer calls, WebRTC can be used instead as a click-to-call icon on a web site. Calls are then free and of comparable quality to VoIP calls.
  • Rich communication: Enhance the communication between emplyees and between employers with video and text messaging without the need for special applications and servers.
  • Un-interrupted communication: Keep the customers on the web page and at the same time start a voice and video call with customers.The advantage to this for the enterprise as well as the customer is that most support calls are initiated first by the customer accessing the companies web site. By havng a click-to-call icon on the website directs the customer to the contact center without them having to make a call.
  • Security: Secure the communication between customers and the enterprise and between employees and remote workers using state of the art encryption.

Info taken from Wikipedia.


WebRTC Opportunities for Service Providers

For service providers and communication service operators, WebRTC can provide new business models and opportunities:

  • Mobile Telephony: By supporting on WebRTC technology, service providers can enable users to access their VoIP service while on the go without having to download specialised applications.This enables customers to be able to communicate via WebRTC using any mobile device with an appropriate browser.
  • Provide Hosted Services: By deploying a WebRTC gateway service providers can provide end users with a service where they would be able to access SIP based hosted PBX and call centers without the need to download applications and tools.
  • WebRTC as a Service: This business model is similar to offering software as a service which is common now with most cloud based operators. By offering WebRTC as a service a cloud based service provider can offer customers a service similar to hosted PBX services. Typically, when providing WebRTC as a service, service providers offer hosted WebRTC Gateways on behalf of their business customers. The way it works is that the service provider’s WebRTC Gateway handles WebRTC calls initiated by users that are destined for the enterprise. The service providers WebRTC gateway intercepts and translates incoming WebRTC calls into SIP calls and routes them to the enterprise. The enterprise would not have to change anything in its infrastructure, as it will still be only handling SIP calls


The challenges for the telcoms and VoIP service provider industry are clear. Having voice, video and file sharing as part of the web browsing experience enables users to easily make and receive calls free whilst browsing a website that supports WebRTC. This is the same challenge that content companies faced with the advent of HTML. HTML flattened the commercial playing field by allowing anyone to set up a website, sell goods and services. What HTML did for ecommerce, WebRTC will do to telephony.and companies that adopt WebRTC will find they have an early commercial advantage over those that do not.

Visit WebRTC.org.

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