How Telco’s fit into the WebRTC, OTT Communications equation

In recent discussions about Open Peer with analysts and at WebRTC Conferences I have been asked the question; How Telco’s fit into the WebRTC, OTT (over-the-top) Communications equation?

My views on this issue are grounded in economics and history. First, the history. In 2001 I joined a startup defined as a BLEC, (Building Local Exchange Carrier) doing very early work with VoDSL (Voice over DSL over ATM). The business case was that voice services could be delivered more efficiently over broadband connections resulting in enhanced services for customers and profits for the business.

By 2003 our focus on VoDSL was transitioning to a “new” protocol, VoIP (Voice over IP). I have distinct memories of countless meetings with Telco engineers and executives along with analyst and industry articles basically singing the same tune – VoIP is a geek’s technology, it will never be ready for prime time, will never be successfully commercialized. This is blood in the water to an entrepreneur’s shark instinct and we, along with other early players such as Vonage and Skype, and many of today’s most successful telecom equipment providers, went all in on VoIP. Today, VoIP and SIP are key Telco technology standards, now that they’ve been validated by early stage, risk takers. That leads me to the economics part of the response.

VoIP has been successfully adopted over the past decade simply because it has proven a better, less expensive way of delivering voice services. The early validation of VoIP by players like Skype, Vonage and a host of others doesn’t necessarily mean those guys were smarter than the Telco’s. It means they were operating under different management responsibilities and risk/reward paradigms. The executive management and boards of Telcos are hired and paid NOT to take risks. They run utilities owned by pension funds and are tasked to provide reasonable, conservative returns with as little risk as possible. They are not paid to innovate. That’s the domain of the other end of the risk/reward spectrum, startups and entrepreneurs.

So, How will Telco’s fit into the WebRTC, OTT Communications equation? History and economics indicate that they will ultimately embrace WebRTC and OTT completely.  How do we know? Skype, the king of OTT communications today was once a geek’s technology and WebRTC obviously is today, but, WebRTC and OTT clearly provide enhanced services at reduced costs, quite simply, a better, easier, less expensive way of doing things. Economic history clearly indicates technology with these attributes succeeds and is widely adopted. The Open Peer software we build at our small, young technology company, Hookflash,  provides higher quality HD video, and wideband audio sessions over reasonable quality broadband connections (wireline or wireless) than PSTN/equipment based solutions, at a tiny fraction of the cost. It also takes a unique new approach to web identity and connecting on IP networks, see Identity Federation.

Open Peer software also directly integrates with other software and applications including enterprise directories, social media, ERP and CRM which will add untold value in productivity, and eliminate the ongoing need and costs associated with PSTN connections and telecom equipment infrastructure. (And yes, it’s shortsighted to ask, what about features like voice mail or ACD?) Messaging is the new ringtone and exciting new features will emerge in Real-Time Communications via WebRTC and mobile to replace other traditional telephony features as computers in their various forms, smartphones, tablets and desktops (and even televisions) continue to replace telephones.

Progressive Telco’s are already launching OTT services such as Telefonica’s O2 Tu Go and British Telecoms’ SmartTalk. UK Analysts Vision Mobile produced an excellent White Paper (sponsored by Ericsson) on Telco strategy for OTT: The Telco Innovation Toolbox.

How Telco’s ultimately fit remains to be seen but here’s my take:

– the majority of communications will migrate to OTT, (essentially meaning all IP) due to superior economics and manageability – telcos will be swept along

– Many Telco’s may wind up positioned one layer back from most customer/subscribers finding their optimal opportunities in providing critical broadband capacity and quality for the growth of OTT and WebRTC services in an all IP era.

–  adoption of OTT and WebRTC will happen more rapidly than VoIP did as customer adoption cycles continue to shorten replacing today’s hybrid IP/PSTN connectivity with all IP solutions. Microsoft Lync is a good example of this kind of temporary hybrid solution. I’d suggest Oracle’s recent $2 billion investment in Acme Packet is a leading indicator of the integration that will occur in an all IP communications marketplace.

– Telco’s will ultimately focus on their competitive advantage as infrastructure providers and benefit as growth in over-the-top services drives bandwidth demand

Telco topline revenue may decline as they transition from traditional subscriber revenues but margins and business stability will improve as Telcos provide enhanced broadband services including speed, capacity, Quality of Service, and security. Telco’s will thrive providing the foundational backbone for OTT services and WebRTC in the new growth era of integrated real-time communications on the web.


by Trent Johnsen

Enterprise Identity Federation

We have been receiving quite a few inbound calls/emails/tweets/msgs recently around using Open Peer for identity federation in the Enterprise.

Open Peer identity federation & lookup service (part of Hookflash Cloud Services) really shines when dropped into an enterprise application. Open Peer was built to be neutral in the world of Identities. This BYOID (Bring Your Own ID) approach is somewhat unique and allows us to match IDs across social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook etc.) and enterprise technologies such as LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) which is leveraged heavily in Microsoft deployments. Open Peer also bridges more generic ID types like email & phone numbers so Enterprise users can use other Open Peer services (Voice, Video, Text) to communicate more freely, in almost any Enterprise application. We actually do not create directories of our own per se, in this respect we are a service that finds and connects peers using common ID points.

If you want to know more about how Hookflash can help your Enterprise (or your Enterprise customers) enjoy hassle-free Identity Federation and OTT (Over-The-Top) – Voice, Video and Text, drop us a line.

WebRTC, Open Peer & Tim Caswell @creationix

At Hookflash we believe WebRTC is the future of real time communications. Our unwavering effort to support this newly proposed standard has not gone unnoticed and consequently we get to work with some of the brightest minds in the space. Tim Caswell is one of those JavaScript champions you hear about but rarely get the chance to work with. Tim @creationix has a history of doing great work in the JS world and we truly feel honored to be working with him on Open Peer, OP.js & WebRTC.

Thanks for “throwing in” Tim!

Open Peer now in JSON

The newest Open Peer Protocol Specification has had a significant revamp, which we are all excited about here at Hookflash’s headquarters. The protocol has become “JSON-ified”, if that can be made into a verb.

The original specification was written using an XML as that was the technology easiest to integrate into the original C++ implementation at the time but it had outgrown its usefulness.

What does this change mean in practical terms? Anyone using an end product built upon either protocol might not have noticed any difference but there is a few important aspects of JSON that make it better suited for Open Peer and as a web technology under the hood.

XML is a powerful document markup language, including a document description language whereas JSON is really a data exchange format. JSON is much simpler. It’s the complexities of XML that actually make it harder to handle. Using XML required every engine to have a minimum powerful XML functions to wield the protocol. JSON’s simplicity makes the implementation and exchange of data much easier.

This allows developers to concentrate on what they actually need to do – exchange information and data and not spend time worrying about XML and all the strange yet wonderful magical things it’s capable of doing, but with little added real world value aside from a few specialized situations.

JSON’s ease of use is exactly the reason why JSON has exploded in use in the JavaScript world of the web. JSON converts almost directly into easy to handle programming language structures and in the case of JavaScript, it’s a 1-for-1 mapping to the language. This makes implementing with JavaScript as simple as handling normal data structures, and is a great sequa to OPJS our Open Peer JavasScript library.

Easy programming = better and more sophisticated applications.

Then there’s the “cool” factor. Communications protocols throughout history have been mapped onto the prominent paradigm technologies of the time. H.323 was based on Q.931 ISDN telecommunications. SIP was based on HTTP header processing. XMPP was based on XML. Now finally a communications signaling protocol that mirrors today’s adopted open web standards – JSON.

Still prefer XML? Well, you can still use it. The format of Open Peer was specifically designed to allow easy JSON to XML and vice-versa. Use whatever processing you wish if the need is truly there. But I have to ask, why would you want to?

Please take a glance at the latest version of the Open Peer Protocol Specification.