|North America II 2014
|The network speaks volumes as it continues to evolve
|President & CEO
Kevin Cook is Dialogic’s President and CEO. Kevin has been with Dialogic since late 2008 and has served in various executive management positions including President and COO where he directed global operations for more than 700 employees in 30 countries. Prior to that he was EVP of Worldwide Field Operations where he was responsible for sales, marketing, services and our global go-to-market strategy. Before Dialogic, Kevin served as Vice President, North America at Avaya Inc., where he directed a 1700 person organization that spanned sales, services, and field marketing functions. Prior to that, he held senior level sales and operating positions at Lucent Technologies and AT&T.
Kevin has degrees in Business Administration and Communications from the University of Wisconsin and is a member of various professional organizations.
With the introduction of new technology and shifting customer needs, the network continues to redefine itself, and technologies like WebRTC are evolving right along with it.
More companies are embracing WebRTC every day. Excitement isn’t just coming from the United States, either – companies in South America, the Middle East and Africa are all harnessing WebRTC, mainly for its video capabilities. The telecom industry has been trying to make wide-scale video telephony happen for decades and WebRTC, with its easy-to-embed nature and the ubiquity of cameras on computing devices, could finally make it happen.
People aren’t talking less; they’re using voice in new and different ways.
When people say that the Internet has revolutionized communications, it’s not always with positive connotations. Many speak disparagingly of the Internet because they feel people don’t talk anymore, instead texting messages, posting pictures or sending videos to get their points across to recipients.
While people debate the benefits and drawbacks of the Internet age, the real revolution is playing out in the fast mobile networks, whether they be LTE or Wi-Fi. These networks become mobile on-ramps to the Internet, opening up a world of new communication possibilities. Internet-based communication now works from virtually anywhere, not just a wired computer; and it can take on many forms, far surpassing traditional voice and giving people richer communication options, rather than less personal ones.
Faster mobile networks are now breeding more and more smart devices, which in turn enable video communication that goes way beyond sharing funny YouTube videos. Video conferencing is increasingly common in apps, call centres, business meetings…and that’s just the beginning.
All of this doesn’t really mean people are talking less. Communication is a basic human need, and talking is part of that. New communication avenues simply enable people to stay in touch in more creative ways than the good old phone call. Just because someone is speed typing on a smartphone doesn’t mean they’re not talking later on; and many new features, such as gaming apps, incorporate voice elements as well. When people say there is less talking going on, what they really mean is that use of voice as a freestanding app is declining, which is a fair assessment. Voice is becoming more embedded in other apps, though, so it only seems that voice is on its way out. It’s still here, just being used in new and different ways.
Two of those ways are through over-the-top (OTT) and carrier-based apps. OTT technology works, as the name suggests, over the top of the traditional network, bringing customers free or low-cost services outside the scope of what a service provider offers. Carrier-based apps, on the other hand, come as part of a carrier’s existing service package, putting the two on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Another way some people like to think of this is Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) versus Voice over LTE (VoLTE), since WebRTC is beginning to become part of OTT apps and VoLTE forms the basis for traditional carrier-based programs. Unlike VoLTE, WebRTC is a way to integrate voice and video into communications applications. The two are not necessarily pitted against one another, though; in fact, they might not be as directly adversarial as popular opinion suggests. Sure, you could make a WebRTC point-to-point VoIP call, which could compete with a VoLTE call, but the two are likely in different market segments.
First of all, once carriers deploy LTE, their direct subscriber offerings are likely to include VoLTE. Rollouts are definitely starting, and they are gaining momentum. As the carrier networks move more and more toward IP multimedia subsystems (IMS), VoLTE is becoming a preferred method of voice calls, with the potential to become the de facto method for a call from many carriers that have LTE networks.
One huge advantage VoLTE brings to carriers is the ability to make an automatic offer to the subscriber. VoLTE would be the benchmark for voice, so much so that subscribers may not even realize that’s what they’re using. Additionally, VoLTE can have tight quality of service (QoS) requirements since the carriers control that offer, which means subscribers can count on better service. Carriers’ abilities to circumvent the glitches and service interruptions that can come with free OTT programs and continue offering the highest quality, most reliable service will be what differentiates them and, thus, VoLTE from up-and-coming free apps. People will pay for service, and carriers are banking on that.
For those reasons, WebRTC isn’t truly a direct competitor of VoLTE. The two offer some of the same capabilities – there can be direct WebRTC-based ‘calls’ that compete with VoLTE, for example – but the way that they work and their benefits make them quite different. In the previous example, for instance, the WebRTC calls take place on an open Internet network that would be subject to the vagaries of the network bandwidth, unlike VoLTE calls. The two are similar, but not to the point of direct competition.
Instead, WebRTC may compete more with Rich Communication Services (RCS), which take place in the app arena. WebRTC can be used by carriers to offer their own OTT voice or video apps, or the OTT app providers themselves can use WebRTC. WebRTC benefits both of these groups, since almost anyone could use it to provide video and voice services, while carriers could also use WebRTC to offer their own apps more easily. The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) is starting to look into WebRTC and initiating working groups to incorporate WebRTC into the IMS network, which is likely how VoLTE will integrate with WebRTC.
Since WebRTC is built into the browser, however, we will ultimately see a lot of apps that incorporate voice and video as elements of a larger communications service, especially since VoLTE and WebRTC offer HD voice codecs that will greatly improve sound quality. Think about the Amazon Mayday service which allows customers to enter a video conference with an Amazon customer service agent at the touch of a button. Video is part of the whole application and customer experience, and is built into it as an element of the larger customer service-focused feature. That’s the ultimate benefit of WebRTC: People will be able to talk as part of a communications app, but the platform as a whole will offer much more than that.
WebRTC also offers the benefit of cost effectiveness. Being open source, WebRTC is a cost-effective solution for businesses that want video capabilities but aren’t prepared to budget large amounts of money for them.. Enterprises want to offer better service to their customers, but they also want to save money doing so. To achieve that goal, many enterprises stay at the forefront of new technological developments. Many years ago, the up-and-coming technology was interactive voice response (IVR), an early use case for computer telephony integration (CTI). WebRTC will likely follow a similar trajectory, as it can save enterprises money while helping to transform customer service for the better.
Under the expectation of benefits like these, WebRTC has progressed rapidly, but its adoption is still far from universal. As of Q2 2014, WebRTC is only supported by Chrome and Firefox; the other big browsers have held off for a variety of reasons, namely uncertainty of the technology’s adoption in its current form or how standards may change it in the future. Admittedly, there are still many questions about WebRTC. Is it ready, and if so, ready for what? Can it be monetized? As it stands now, does it offer businesses new customer and self-service options that will improve operations?
Despite these questions, more companies are embracing WebRTC every day. Excitement isn’t just coming from the United States, either – companies in South America, the Middle East and Africa are all harnessing WebRTC, mainly for its video capabilities. The telecom industry has been trying to make wide-scale video telephony happen for decades and WebRTC, with its easy-to-embed nature and the ubiquity of cameras on computing devices, could finally make it happen.
As we move into an era of new networks –whether LTE or Web telephony – we can’t assume that all value-added services of the past will continue to be valuable. Services naturally fall by the wayside over time as networks and technology progress; but as they do, the potential for new value-added services only gets larger. Just imagine what will be possible when users can easily embed communications into nearly every app on ubiquitous high-speed networks. The possibilities are virtually unlimited.
With the introduction of new technology and shifting customer needs, the network continues to redefine itself, and technologies like WebRTC are evolving right along with it. It’s impossible to say how WebRTC will manifest itself at this point, but don’t be surprised if it takes a prominent role in the future of service providers and enterprises alike. And when it does, people won’t be talking less; they’ll just be able to talk through their browsers, their mobile phones or whatever device they so choose.