WebRTC: a game-changer for unified communications

Opinion Bianca Allery
Feb 18, 2016

WebRTC is disrupting the UC market – but how can the channel take advantage?

Launched in 2012, there is now an emerging standard of web communication that makes high-definition, low-bandwidth video, audio chat and peer-to-peer data transfer as simple as a single browser link. That’s right – it’s Web-based Real Time Communications (WebRTC), supported by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and founded by Tim Berners-Lee.

WebRTC goes beyond VoIP and web conferencing, and moves towards ultra-personalised real-time customer interaction. It’s a huge business opportunity with far-reaching implications across customer service and engagement, to sales and conversions. With WebRTC, businesses can now communicate via the internet browser without dialling a phone number, or requiring a middleman, such as Skype. From enriching a standard phone call with video to hosting webinars- these tasks can now take place, hassle-free, through the internet browser. In addition to audio and video calls, businesses can also offer screen sharing and classroom features for customers and staff alike.

WebRTC is a game-changer for unified communications, offering simpler and cheaper real-time communications options. In just the past year the use of WebRTC has started to take off and we are already seeing how the new technology is disrupting the market.

Market analyst predictions vary, but they are all big numbers. For example, Disruptive Analysis said there would be 6.7bn WebRTC-supporting devices by 2019. Separately, the global WebRTC market is set to be worth nearly $3bn by 2020, growing at a remarkable CAGR of more than 36 percent, according to Technavio’s latest report.

Which regions are adopting WebRTC?

The Technavio report shows the Americas command the largest market share - nearly 47 percent, with EMEA region in second place.  The growing number of social network users and their need for real-time communication is leading to the high adoption of WebRTC in the Americas.

The growth of WebRTC in EMEA is mainly driven by the high demand for videoconferencing across the entire business landscape. In addition, advances in technology have reduced the prices of videoconferencing solutions. The UK is the key leading country in Europe for WebRTC and this is attributed to the high use of cloud communication platforms for video calling.

How is WebRTC being used?

The earliest and most obvious adoption of WebRTC is for customer support via a click-to-call button. Amazon’s Mayday, for example, connect users with support staff via a live video feed as well as giving a full view of the user’s tablet and the ability to manipulate the tablet – all using WebRTC. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it’s ‘actually very similar to having someone standing next to you’.

As demand grows, traditional telcos are under pressure to support WebRTC – AT&T, Telefonica, Telstra in Australia all now do. Companies such as Ericsson, Citrix and 3CX are also using it.

Many different business sectors are adopting, or evaluating, WebRTC. Call centres and customer service businesses continue to be the number one areas of discussion for WebRTC apps and implementation.  In addition, health and financial services are finding WebRTC apps lend themselves well to their industries.

Why isn’t it being used more widely?

Since its launch Google, Microsoft and Apple have been at war with each other regarding the support of WebRTC. Only at the end of 2014 did Google and Microsoft finally come to an understanding, and that has been the very reason WebRTC was at a stand-still up until then. Today Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera and Firefox all support WebRTC with video; in fact at the moment the only browser that does not support WebRTC is Safari.

Why should resellers take notice?

Resellers can capitalise on new revenue streams from hardware, such as webcams and headphones to use while web conferencing, as well as associated software. Resellers should look to offer a fully-integrated open standards solution, which can provide a one-stop shop for all of an end user’s communications needs – this will combine WebRTC-enabled web conferencing, click-to-call and an IP phone system. In addition, by removing the need for a client, WebRTC will also push expensive proprietary UC vendors from the market. Those providers that cannot adapt, will not survive the surge in opposing technology.

Reseller benefits go beyond cost savings

WebRTC is a useful new technology standard for everyone as it enables colleagues to communicate more easily and for customers to get answers quickly with click-to-call. As a customer service and collaboration tool it’s hard to beat. Businesses that embrace WebRTC will undoubtedly see commercial benefits and gain a competitive advantage - not least better customer engagement, boosted sales, improved communication and reduced call costs. As inbound calls via the click-to-call function are effectively free, businesses can significantly reduce (or remove) the cost of operating expensive 0800 number calls, which can really add up for a contact centre.

If 2015 was the year WebRTC was hurled into the limelight, then 2016 will be the year it cements its presence as the go-to solution for real time communications.  And the channel should be taking full advantage.

Bianca Allery is marketing manager at 3CX

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