What are Carriers Doing With WebRTC? Everything But IMS

July 17, 2014

Here’s an interesting thought: while vendors are pitching connecting WebRTC to IMS, carriers are deploying non-IMS WebRTC services.


One of my hobbies is going to WebRTC events for telecoms (=most of the events these days) and getting into fights with people who pitch that WebRTC’s success requires the benefits of IMS. Guess which side I am on?

It dawned on me the other day, that I am not alone.

Telecom vendors in conferences will try to sell their IMS gear which happens to have (either really have or slideware have) IMS access points into it. As expected, they sell it as the best thing that have ever happened to WebRTC.

It seems like most of their target customers (the service providers) are ignoring them…

Just look at the commercial services we already have of WebRTC out there by telcos:


Putting WebRTC into their X1 platform to provide something similar to the Chromecast experience.


Orange Libon is a VoIP OTT service launched by Orange last year. It added WebRTC support, as its third party libraries page suggested at some point (dead link since then).

This isn’t an IMS play but rather the opposite direction.


NTT have built and launched their SkyWay platform for developers.


Anyone said TokBox? Well… Telefonica later sold it to Vonage.


Telenor¬†has their own “pet” service appear.in.

This is the pure WebRTC multipoint conference experience.

Telenor decided to… sell it to Videonor. appear.in later rebranded as Whereby.


Dean pointed to Tuenti’s WebRTC based service. Another Telco VoIP OTT service that makes use of WebRTC.

Why is it important?

Real service launches with WebRTC don’t include IMS yet. This can mean several things:

  • IMS is the real services and the rest is just experiments (even those above). WebRTC hasn’t come far enough for Telcos to really adopt them and this will happen only in an IMS context. I don’t believe this is the case.
  • WebRTC is a lot easier to use and launch without adding it on top of IMS
  • Telcos are smart enough to understand that IMS doesn’t offer them any advantage in a WebRTC world
  • Telcos didn’t find a compelling WebRTC-IMS use case yet

For the telecom vendors this should be a big red alert sign: They need to rethink their strategy with WebRTC. Stop treating it like another access point to IMS. Look at what your customers are doing and find a way to be attractive to them again.

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  1. Good post.

    I’d say there’s a 5th reason: a lot of the IMS infrastructure & services which WebRTC is expected to enhance is itself either delayed or immature, as are the standards and processes for doing WebRTC/IMS integration.

    In particular, VoLTE is still at a very early stage of deployment & faces enough difficulties just working on its own, without adding WebRTC as a second layer.

    RCS is limited in deployment, has essentially no users, no business case & no hope, so adding WebRTC would be like putting lipstick on a dead, zombie pig.

    And the 3GPP WebRTC/IMS standards are still a work in progress, especially with ongoing work on security, authentication/identity, datachannel etc.

    I’m expecting to see some integrated offers to emerge, but it’ll take some time.

    Ultimately, IMS needs WebRTC much more than WebRTC needs IMS. Certain telcos like NTT, Telefonica & Telenor get this. Others are still trying to glue the two together or have made a strategic error in giving overall WebRTC responsibility to the legacy core networks groups.

    Smart operators will devolve responsibility to multiple business groups & not try to exert central control. Each unit – consumer, business, IPTV, M2M, digital services, wholesale etc should be given free rein. If any of these wants to go the IMS route then fine, but there should not be some enforced, centralised approach.

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