WebRTC World Feature Article

October 24, 2014

Untapped Market: WebRTC for Contact Center Agent Desktop Apps

By TMCnet Special Guest
Cesar Branco, Telecom Consultant

The agent desktop application is the main tool of a contact center agent, where she or he manages availability, controls telephony and interacts with whatever application manages the end customer interaction. It can be a fat client installed on a computer or a Web page where third-party controls run.

One of the problems with contact center deployments is the actual installation of third-party software on agents’ machines. Until now the two available solutions were either inefficient browser plug-ins or certification by corporate IT departments.

Frequently these two solutions are cumbersome, time consuming and difficult to maintain, when at all possible. Most times the agent desktop application will have to run on expensive remote desktop servers, with separate VoIP hard or soft phones. Alternatively, the browser plug-ins raise security concerns, making quality of service difficult to enforce and configurations a nightmare.

Until now there were no options to these two solutions, short of Adobe Flash, which is increasingly being replaced by HTML5 and avoided as a plug in.

Now with WebRTC, all the features that were supported by a dedicated agent desktop application can be run from a browser, including media and telephony features, without any extra plug-in or compromise in quality of service or security. All media streams can be identified with COS markings applied to them, communication can be encrypted, video is supported as is co browsing. It’s simple.

A concern with WebRTC is the list of supported codecs for voice: G711 and iLBC. The WebRTC standard has chosen iLBC and G711 because they’re free, avoiding intellectual property and licensing problems. iLBC is a low bandwidth codec that is not widely supported yet, and G711’s bandwidth utilization is above the standard G729 or the increasingly adopted G722 HD codec. However for scenarios where the agents are working inside a private local or wide area network, the G711 codec is acceptable in terms of bandwidth, voice quality and compatibility with existing media gateways; and iLBC is appropriate for over the Internet scenarios (work from home for example) because carrier SIP trunks start to support it (Sonus voice switches support iLBC, for example).

The other concern is the fact that only the Chrome and Firefox browsers currently support WebRTC, but because this is not an end-user application, corporate IT departments can easily instruct agents to use the approved browsers.

Therefore the upcoming versions of agent desktop applications being released by the major contact center software manufacturers are likely to be WebRTC based or include a WebRTC option. WebRTC is a frequent question on current RFIs/RFCs, and evaluation meetings with system integrators, analysts and consultancy firms. In any case the simplicity will win the customers and force the adoption of WebRTC as the best choice for a green field deployment or upgrade of a contact center.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson


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