WebRTC Expert Feature

July 25, 2013

WebRTC Web Revenue To Carriers

Let’s take a long view. 

Less than twenty years ago, carriers were only offering voice service, yet today, they offer a so-called “triple play” and also act as cable operators. Unlike its baseball namesake, though – a truly extraordinary occurrence – “triple play” service is not a cohesive whole, but the sum of its parts. The box in your house is a converged device but the services it drives are not integrated, meaning that you can buy the bundle and save or individually receive and pay for each service via the same box. Bottom line? The offerings are parallel. When it comes to the Web, though, the experience can be truly integrated. Video, for example, can be embedded into a Web page, you can place a call from a site - in fact, everything can come together in a single unified experience that should probably be referred to as “embedded play.” 

Of course, access providers facing the migration of everything to the web harbor their usual fear that revenue will disappear, again. However, anyone who looks at the balance sheets for the carriers knows that they have “nothing to fear but fear itself.” Along with many I am glad to call friends, I have long taken the view that the Web will always win in the end, though these days I am getting a 20/20 view of the wisdom of Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise. In that myth, Achilles wins the race but when Zeno tries to find the answer as to when Achilles takes the lead he discovers that in his paradox the tortoise wins.    

“In the paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise, Achilles is in a footrace with the tortoise. Achilles allows the tortoise a head start of 100 metres, for example. If we suppose that each racer starts running at some constant speed (one very fast and one very slow), then after some finite time, Achilles will have run 100 metres, bringing him to the tortoise's starting point. During this time, the tortoise has run a much shorter distance, say, 10 metres. It will then take Achilles some further time to run that distance, by which time the tortoise will have advanced farther; and then more time still to reach this third point, while the tortoise moves ahead. Thus, whenever Achilles reaches somewhere the tortoise has been, he still has farther to go. Therefore, because there are an infinite number of points, Achilles must reach where the tortoise has already been, he can never overtake the tortoise”

All of this brings us to the modern paradox of whether the carriers can turn WebRTC into a revenue play for themselves.

At WebRTC Conference & Expo last month, Alcatel Lucent and Vobi did a great job of masking the role of carriers in delivering a WebRTC solution in a manner that will allow them to partner well, thus providing a perfect example of the carriers’ opportunity for an embedded play. Of course, alternative strategies can accomplish the same goal and, like Achilles, the innovators using WebRTC appear to be flying past the carrier’s tortoise-like movements and are making great strides in capturing people’s attention. Once the carrier’s tortoise understands embedded play, however, the paradox will unfold.   If the carriers can associate WebRTC with access, they will probably generate more revenue than any other WebRTC player.  

While we know the Web (Achilles) will win, however the carrier (tortoise) will not be losing anytime soon.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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