Google gives full backing to WebRTC; mobile improvements on way

02 APR 2014

LIVE FROM WEBRTC GLOBAL SUMMIT, LONDON: WebRTC has come on leaps and bounds since its public launch on Chrome in November 2012 and more improvements are in the pipeline – both for mobile and laptop users – heralded Serge Lachapelle, group product manager at Google, in his keynote presentation this morning.

A web-based platform on which real-time voice and video are accessed through a browser, WebRTC requires no software downloads or plug-ins.

And Lachappelle, one of its founding architects – he even coined the name – seemed slightly bemused by criticism in some quarters about how well WebRTC actually works.

While he conceded that “challenges” remain in ironing out WebRTC glitches, he said problems were only to be expected given the relatively short space of time since “full launch” on Chrome.

“When Chrome was launched that was criticised as well,” he said. “It initially only supported Windows and didn’t support bookmarks, but after taking on feedback the ramp-up was tremendous. We’re seeing this right now with WebRTC.”

In a Chrome browser beta vision to be released next week, Lachappelle announced that mobile and laptop users – provided they had the right hardware chips – could expect much lower power consumption.

“If you’re using Chrome inside the browser in your mobile phone or tablet, and if your device has hardware echo canceller, Chrome can now go access it, relieving the CPU of having to do this in software,” he said.

Lachappelle pointed to the Nexus 5 device using Qualcomm chips – the “first in a series of devices using VP8 to encode and decode video,” he said –  that used 40 per cent less CPU power.

Lachappelle added that the latest Chrome versions on Android had a “a bullet proof audio path”.

“We’ve worked really hard to get good audio quality,” said Lachappelle, “even if the CPU mobile is loaded [with video].”

Lachappelle said once WebRTC1.0 specs were finished, work would begin on WebRTC2.0 with a focus on fixing bugs prioritised in feedback.

Call set-up times, media glitches and platform instability were flagged by some speakers at the summit as problems.

WebRTC has, of course, the potential to disrupt mobile and fixed-line businesses. At one summit session yesterday, Patrice Crutel, senior network architect at Bouygues Telecom, pointed to the uncomfortable prospect of SIM-less devices – courtesy of WebRTC – skipping roaming and national call charges.

On the other hand, Crutel could see revenue opportunity in making various network APIs available to third-party developers.

While the telco business model for WebRTC might be unclear, Mark Windle, head of marketing at OpenCloud, warned operators that if they were intent on competing with so-called OTT players they would need to offer things like real-time calling and video – within other applications – if customers were to still see them as relevant. Working out the business model, he suggested, may have to come later.

Author

Ken Wieland

Ken has been part of the MWC Mobile World Daily editorial team for the last three years, and is now contributing regularly to Mobile World Live. He has been a telecoms journalist for over 15 years, which includes eight...More

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