Recently, Voxbone was invited to present at the Pacific Telecommunications Council annual event in Honolulu, and offer an Industry Briefing on “Social Networks or Open Networks. WebRTC, Identity, Federation and the Next Waves in the Global IP Communications Ocean” 

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Since 1995 over the top (OTT) services have enabled unprecedented levels of global and cheap telecommunication.  However while consumers and business people alike have been able to enjoy free and unlimited digital connections, the software running under the hood has been for profit and proprietary in nature.

These OTT frameworks have been enormously successful by offering simple-to-use tools that scaled and offered standardization. Telephone numbers, proprietary service handles, IP & email addresses all served as identifiers for different types of popular telecom services.  ENUM was first developed to map one type of identifier (the e.164 telephone number) to IP addresses for consumers but only achieved acceptance among voice carriers as a wholesale enabler.

Now, consumers have increasingly consigned their identity to their preferred social networks. The social network is already becoming for them THE network, for everything from asynchronous status and picture sharing to voice and video. If large enough this can be useful without interoperability with other networks encouraging monopolies. These social networks cost nothing to use, except your soul.

Another wave in this fluid market is could be called the  “Open Network.” The Open Network is defined by open source software and tools like WebRTC that will put advanced voice, video and data communications into browsers and devices. Identity on the Open Network could be abstracted as people connect more anonymously through encrypted connections and dynamic webpages.  The Open Network could have its biggest impact in the emerging economies, much as mobile telephony rapidly transformed nations from negligible to full tele-density.

But how will people address one another, and who will “pay”, and how much for this mode of communications that is inherently OTT and less attractive to advertisers? How will these networks connect with one another, and with those of corporations and existing voice (PSTN and IP) across borders?

The telephone number remains essential for interconnecting these disparate networks, and provides a powerful business opportunity for the social networks to monetize their user bases.  How often do people check the social network page of a person with whom they are having a conference call for the first time?   Social networks will absorb traditional voice communication (by selling conferencing, inbound numbers, voicemail, fax and sms based services) as well as use WebRTC to video and voice enable their entire user base.  But likely there will be WebRTC enabled equivalents to WordPress and Joomla! as well, where users can spin up their own private online conference rooms and social networks free from intrusion and advertising.

ptc presentation hg

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