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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tuenti, Telefonica, Tokbox and zero-rated Mobile WebRTC?

This is a quick post on what appears to be a very interesting development I've stumbled upon today. It appears that a division of Telefonica has both a Telco-OTT WebRTC-powered VoIP service... and is also zero-rating it for use on its own MVNO-style sub-brand network service. 

*NEW* March 2014 Disruptive Analysis WebRTC Report & Forecast Update DETAILS HERE

This is from Tuenti, a Spanish social network that TF acquired some time ago. Although it has faced heavy competition & cannibalisation from Facebook, it still has around 6-10m active users, mostly in Spain.

I haven't had a chance to confirm this with the company yet, so various caveats apply, but... this blog post on Tuenti is very telling. It appears that Tuenti has had a Telco-OTT VoIP app for some time, but now "the VoIP service is compatible for the first time with the web (using the Chrome browser)". Or, according to the FAQ it works for calls to a PC which is using Chrome v23 & up, or Opera v20 & up. Which, coupled with the screenshots on the FAQ, screams "WebRTC" to me.

Edit: 10 minutes after publication, I got confirmation via Twitter from Tuenti that it does indeed use WebRTC

If I'm reading it right, it also appears to work as a messaging client for broadcast, buddy-list and one-to-one modes - ie like Twitter, Facebook Status or SMS.

The other wrinkle here is that Tuenti isn't just a Telco-OTT social network. It also operates as a prepaid SIM-only MVNO called Tuenti Movil in Spain, which had around 165k subscribers at the end of last year. More interesting still, it has a dataplan called Zerolimites, which zero-rates use of Tuenti's own app, if used on its own network - even if the user has no credit, for up to 30 days. Like GiffGaff in the UK, Tuenti appears to be a subsidiary MVNO, owned by a full MNO. I guess that potentially it puts it in a different place from a regulatory point of view as well as for branding purposes, depending on the "Chinese Walls". I haven't really seen anyone talk about how Net Neutrality might work for MVNOs, either.

There's multiple angles here, which I need to think about and ideally talk directly to those involved to confirm. I don't know, but I could easily imagine the new version of the Tuenti Android app is based on WebRTC APIs from Telefonica sister-company Tokbox. I'm not sure how the on-net traffic is zero-rated - perhaps by forcing it through a TURN server rather than doing it all P2P? There's no iPhone version, but I suspect that's because of Android's dominance in Spain, especially among the cash-strapped youth demographic aimed for by Tuenti.

Nevertheless, this has all my current main research focus themes in one:
  • WebRTC
  • Telco-OTT
  • Mobile VoIP
  • Neutrality & zero-rated mobile data models
  • New formats for voice and messaging
  • Telco service innovation & new business models
I want to get a chance to drill into this in more detail, but at first glance it seems to be one of the best examples of Telco-OTT innovation I've seen. (Honourable mention to Orange's new version of Libon too though, with its browser-based "guest access" mode).

Its timing is also excellent - I'm just about to publish my latest update to my WebRTC research report in the next day or so, complete with revised forecasts and analysis of issues like telco 
involvement, mobile WebRTC, and whether the slow arrival of Microsoft & Apple is a problem.

Tuenti's announcement also comes hard on the heels of yesterday's launch of another mobile WebRTC app called WeCam for social video-chat between Facebook, Google+ and Twitter users, which is openly disclosed as being powered by Tokbox. Together with various other factors and announcements I'm aware of, I am now increasingly convinced that mobile variants of WebRTC are going to hit an inflection point in 2014, not 2015 as I'd originally expected. More detail on the analysis is exclusively available for my subscribers.

Disruptive Analysis was the first analyst firm covering WebRTC, and maintains the most comprehensive & up-to-date analysis of any research house. If you're interested in buying the Disruptive Analysis WebRTC research study (including the new update) please click here or email information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com . Private workshops, webinars and consulting work also undertaken.

(I'm also working on a report on "Non-Neutral Mobile Internet Business Models" for publication in the next month or so - get in touch for a pre-publication discount).

1 comment:

Olivier said...

The key issue with WebRTC for me is that "use cases" are not yet up to the opportunities it brings.
I've seen many WebRTC demos but most of the time you don't see yourself using the product, even if it works fine thanks to webRTC.

I'd be interested to know your perspective on possible compelling business phone applications built on webRTC as this is what I working on right now (aircall.io)