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Is This the Carrier WebRTC Killer App?

June 17, 2014

Recently, I was on a panel in a room full of about 1,000 carriers talking about the present and future of WebRTC. More bullish about the technology I could not be - but on the panel was an analyst who said they didn’t see any consumer value to the technology. I mentioned carriers could use WebRTC to increase ARPU and reduce churn. She didn’t think this was possible.

An example which came to mind was a cable provider who offers a premium triple-play service near my home and adds Wi-Fi in the city - making the service stickier and increasing its ARPU because the value of this Wi-Fi to me is tremendous – it could save me $100+ per month on wireless costs. As a result, I pay more for the cable service than I otherwise would.

Everyone on the panel acknowledged that WebRTC is in its infancy – no surprise here. Yet, there are already lots of proof of concept applications and a whole bunch of working ones like Amazon’s Mayday button.

In other words, it’s tough to specify what apps we can expect, how sticky they will be and what sort of premium users will place on them as we are early in the cycle of new business models.

Then it occurred to me in the elevator after the conference… a simple killer app for WebRTC which increases stickiness for carriers – wired and wireless - is a FaceTime clone which is cross-platfom. Anyone who has benefitted from escalating a PSTN call to FaceTime video knows the convenience of such a service.

Apple charges a premium for this service through device prices which can be twice as high as competitors as well as iCloud pricing which is higher than the competition, etc. And, it makes the service sticky… If you are using FaceTime now, you likely don’t want to switch to Android. And this is the Achilles heel of the service – it doesn’t work outside its ecosystem.

But what if there was a service which lets you twin your calls to WebRTC on mobile, desktop etc. You would be able to press a simple button on a call and launch a video call. Multiparty even. And you could do it across Android, Blackberry, iOS etc.

What is the value here? Is it worth $1 per month? More?

So many people use their phones at work and at home and we know quite often the service in either area is often less than perfect. If your phone twinned with a PC WebRTC app/page then your PC would ring with your cell, allowing you to take the call.

Carriers are deploying femtocells to achieve similar benefits - why not go direct to the PC, tablet etc. which is already on Wi-Fi?

This is just one idea – there are many more. My final thought to carriers was to get a skunk works program going ASAP and start to explore how to use and deploy WebRTC. This is the chance for ILECS to expand way beyond their footprints, benefit from the app economy and generate a higher valuation in the eyes of their investors.

FaceTime is a killer app. Skype is killer app. Facebook is a killer app. WebRTC ideas like the one outlined above may be the killer app you need in your network.

I expect to be discussing this extensively at WebRTC Expo this week in Atlanta. Hope to see you here!

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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