WebRTC Global Summit Summary: The WebRTC Dichotomy

webrtc dichotomyBefore the WebRTC Summit we ran TADHack-mini London over the weekend, its a grass-roots effort to engage the broader developer community in the power of adding telecom capabilities and services into applications, services and business processes. Well done to everyone who took part, the mash-ups, collaboration, and use of software and hardware in the hacks was amazing. Some of the winners had a chance to present at the Summit. You can see all the videos and TADHack-mini summary here:

Industry conferences highlight the WebRTC dichotomy because it spans web and telecoms, slowly telecoms is understanding the web has won beyond the air interface, but this conference highlights the gulf that remains. And the gulf is not across all telecoms, rather the IMS bit. Which leaves many developers perplexed at the acronyms, complexity, language used, and generally how weird conversations get. Its a dichotomy that exists only from the telco perspective.

To highlight the differences:

IMS View

  • Quality of Service is needed (yes, but not all the time, and for consumers not most of the time)
  • Interoperability is needed (yes, but not all the time)
  • Circuit switched fallback is needed (yes, but not all the time)
  • WebRTC extended IMS

Web View

  • Its all IP (yes, but not all the time)
  • Best effort is good enough (yes, but not all the time)
  • What’s CSFB and HO?
  • WebRTC replaces IMS (which it does not)

As Tim Panton has pointed out, Telecoms is on the wrong side of history. The web has won, IMS and RCS have to change, best effort is good enough most of the time for consumers, but NOT all the time. The answers are already out there as I’ve discussion on the need to an RCS reset, and at previous IMS World Forum reviews – which I’m not attending this year as I guess they got fed up with a heretic pointing out when they say “IMS, what choice do you have?” my answer of “lots of choice, including ignoring it”.

The WebRTC Summit was better than last year, it was much more diverse, as mentioned by Dan Jenkins and several other attendees highlighted.

Quickly rounding up some of the presentation highlights, which are shown in the presentation below as well:

  • Svein opened proceedings, with some key points on today’s ‘product’ is internet access, not voice and messaging as they are bundled for free. Platforms do not deliver services, telcos need to focus on services. This is why TADHack is important to the future of the industry.
  • Andreas Gal got the 3GPP guys’ feathers ruffled when he crossed out 3GPP and showed W3C and IETF as the more important standards bodies. Let’s be clear the web has won for all but the air interface, telecom standards people need to get with the program.
  • Libon showed how they are using WebRTC, generally for extending their service to the browser.
  • Matrix is important to the telecoms industry, federating communications silos. There is a religious argument against, ‘federation is not needed’; and a more technical argument on XMPP does most of what you need already. But check out TADHack to see all the ways it can be used in practice. Its a great example of how taking a web-centric, developer-friendly approach wins.
  • Doug from Oracle gave a nice review of WebRTC use cases, many of which are deployed across customer care, healthcare, etc.
  • Victor from WebRTCHacks highlighted two important initiatives to keep an eye on: an attempt to produce a video version of Opus, and TURN/STUN getting a much needed update.
  • Thomas from DT showed peak telephony happened in 2010 and peak SMS in 2012. So this is old news. He reviewed the roles WebRTC can play for a telco across extending services to the web, enterprise applications, cost / efficiency savings, and disruptive communication services / business models.
  • Tsahi showed the importance of vertical applications to WebRTC, which was backed up by Patrice from Bouygues. Patrice also highlighted the role he see of RCS not as a service rather as a set of enablers (presence / discovery) let’s see which devices implement that.
  • Chad gave a nice summary of the use cases for terminating media in the network / cloud. He also discussed quite topically the role of the selective forwarding unit (SFU) – shortly afterwards Atlassian bought the guys who built Jitsi – congrats to Emil and team. James Body also gave a dangerous demo using Jitsi during his presentation. So SFUs got quite some coverage at the event.
  • Stephen Sale wrapped up the event, with the extensive survey they run with Nielsen on customer behavior across all their devices. He wrapped up with similar conclusions to many presenters on the importance of a services and vertical focus.