The pandemic-accelerated shift to pervasive reliance on cloud-based video communications has transformed the outlook for communications platforms-as-a-service (CPaaS) providers who want to seize new opportunities within and beyond their core business markets.
This new perspective stems from the fact that it’s now possible to implement video-based communications that go far beyond the capabilities of the typical CPaaS approach to video conferencing. The question is whether and to what extent CPaaS companies want to leverage these new capabilities now that video connectivity is reshaping society’s approaches to making a living, getting an education, maintaining healthcare, social networking and much else.
Making a Bright Outlook Brighter
Up to now, the CPaaS sector has thrived by making it possible for businesses to easily tailor internal and customer-facing communications solutions to their unique needs with tight integration into existing applications and back-office systems. According to IDC, global revenues registered in this segment of the cloud-based communications ecosystem are increasing at a 33% CAGR from a worldwide total of $4.2 billion in 2019 to a projected $17.7 billion in 2024.
There’s no reason to question this buoyant outlook, but there’s a big change coming that will impact the strategic perspectives of CPaaS providers and every other entity serving various niches in the cloud communications market. Simply put, the distribution-related technological assumptions that have shaped and limited the video communications solutions from CPaaS providers, united communications (UC) platforms, hosted video conferencing (VC) systems and suppliers of watch party, social media and other consumer-oriented group meeting scenarios are no longer valid.
As ever more providers of cloud communications services are discovering, it’s now possible to support real-time interactive video streaming with unlimited scalability in any one-to-many, many-to-one, or many-to-many configuration. Anchored by instantiations of Red5 Pro’s Experience Delivery Network (XDN) platform, these capabilities can be game changers for CPaaS providers.
CPaaS solution sets increasingly include support for real-time video interactions, typically enabled by use of the WebRTC streaming protocol. But these applications, like video communications in other cloud-service categories, usually limit video sessions to a small number of participants with connectivity at sub-HD levels of video quality and audio quality pegged to human voice frequencies
XDN infrastructure, which employs WebRTC in the lion’s share of use cases, eliminates these restrictions. Interactive video connectivity at HD 1080p quality with high-fidelity audio can be scaled across a million or more participants with end-to-end latency at 400ms or less in any direction at any distance.
A Multitude of Use Cases
This opens possibilities to CPaaS providers that go far beyond what’s on offer today. As described in this white paper and many Red5Pro blogs, the unlimited scalability of WebRTC enabled by the multi-cloud XDN platform is driving innovative approaches to interactive engagements including everything from basic video conferencing to use cases involving:
- Collaboration across dispersed workforces and supply chains;
- Education at all levels;
- Conferences and trade shows of every description;
- Remotely administered healthcare;
- Watch parties with live-streamed sports, esports, concerts and other events;
- Interaction on social media;
- Multiplayer gaming;
- Live video shopping;
- Online gambling;
- Hybrid live/online and purely online auctions;
- Networked experiences with virtual reality and other types of extended reality.
At a minimum, unshackling WebRTC enables CPaaS companies to expand their offerings in their core business markets. This starts with video conferencing templates that support an unlimited number of simultaneous participants no matter where they are. In addition, they can enable interactive video communications for things like massive company meetings that engage far-flung workforces numbering in the thousands; executive sessions with investors, press and the public at large, and spontaneous collaborations involving whatever mix of participants is appropriate to a given project no matter where they are or how many are connected.
For companies like Brightlink, IntelePeer, Plivo, Telnyx and the many other CPaaS vendors who have yet to introduce a video communications option, the availability of XDN infrastructure represents an opportunity to leapfrog competitors who are offering video solutions tied to outmoded uses of WebRTC. At the same time, CPaaS vendors who are already supporting video communications options have every reason to seize the opportunity to enhance those options to full potential. And, no matter where providers currently sit in the CPaaS pantheon, all the other categories of use cases enumerated above are open to any who want to move beyond their traditional market bases.
It’s true that some CPaaS companies have gone to great lengths to develop compelling video communications options that go beyond more typical capabilities supported by companies like Avaya, Bandwidth, Kandy (now part of Ribbon Communications), MessageBird, Sinch and VoxImplant. But even the more advanced video solution providers are underplaying their potential by relying on scaling-limited approaches to use of WebRTC.
In other words, nobody needs to hold back from aggressive expansion of their horizons out of fear someone else has beat them to the punch. A quick look at the offerings of the CPaaS leaders in video communications reveals why this is the case.
RingCentral is noted for providing a large library of APIs for configuring all aspects of communications with a wide range of features beyond the basic voice, fax, text, online meeting, video conferencing, and collaboration capabilities comprising the core RingCentral Office feature set. The library includes APIs that simplify the integration of these capabilities into virtually any business app, service, or process without requiring any coding.
RingCentral makes use of the Opus audio codec, one of three supported by WebRTC, to enable audio that is compliant with the HD Voice standard on desktops, and phone systems that are HD Voice compatible. The company relies on WebRTC for two versions of video service: the basic video connectivity provided as part of its Meetings suite, which is a standalone, plug-in based service, and RingCentral Video, which the company touts as a “one-click” feature customers can incorporate into their customized communications systems.
The one-click, no plug-in approach relies on browser support for WebRTC, but the capability has only been activated with use of the Chrome browser (WebRTC is also supported by the other major browsers, Firefox, Edge, Safari and Opera.). Moreover, the maximum number of participants in RingCentral Video sessions is 100 with its Standard service, and 200 and 300, respectively, with its Premium and Ultimate tiers. And, so far, the reach of the video services is limited to North America.
Twilio is another leader in the field known for APIs enabling access to a wide range of features that businesses can use to customize their communications systems. Rather than requiring customers to rely solely on pre-built features, Twilio enables more sophisticated approaches to configuring communications systems through simple coding processes.
The company supports a highly flexible approach to incorporating WebRTC-based video into the communications system, including mechanisms for adjusting codec setting and bitrates. WebRTC video on the platform works with all WebRTC-compatible browsers, and is supported with SDKs for Android and iOS on mobile devices.
Twilio supports 1080p video, though only in conjunction with use of the VP8 codec. (Its limit with use of H.264 is 720p). Twilio’s audio default setting with the Opus codec at 20-40 Kbps is sufficient to support music at the low end of the quality scale, and settings can be adjusted down to the minimum bitrates required for basic voice or HD audio. But CD-quality and higher audio levels are out of reach.
The Twilio APIs support video communications integration in multiple use cases such as telemedicine, education, workplace collaboration, and social connections. And APIs can be used to incorporate other visual components into the video communications experience, such as whiteboards, power points, animations, and screen sharing. But the number of participants in a group video session is limited to 50.
No CPaaS vendor has gone farther in the creation of a video-optimized platform than Agora.
The company’s WebRTC-enabled Real-Time Engagement PaaS runs on a proprietary Internet overlay network instantiated in 200 datacenters worldwide to enable real-time streaming at global scales. A suite of APIs enables developers to embed audio and video call features into any business communications system, as well as industry verticals such as social media, online dating, mobile gaming, e-commerce and telehealth.
But while video can be streamed over the Agora network to up to a million passive viewers, the platform can only support interactive input during a streaming session from a maximum of 17 people. Moreover, the maximum video resolution supported with interactive engagement is 360p on a one-to-one call and 240p on a one-to-many call. The maximum resolution on passively streamed video is 720p.
Vonage, a pioneer in cloud-hosted VoIP, has built its position as a leader in the CPaaS market on the strength of technology obtained with its acquisition of two other CPaaS providers, Nexmo and TokBox. Vonage delivers a full range of APIs supporting customization and integration of voice, video, messaging, and other applications into myriad use cases, including consumer as well as business related scenarios.
The video services suite, based on TokBox, includes click-to-access chat box modules that can be implemented in call centers and any other consumer-facing business environment. The platform also features a highly scalable video conferencing API that employs interactive WebRTC streaming to engage as many as 3,000 participants in two-way communications at any one time.
The 3,000-participant limit is superior to the other CPaaS scaling limits but is far short of the XDN potential. The platform also sets a limit on HD quality at 720p. And while the comparisons discussed here don’t include pricing, it’s worth noting that scaling to high numbers of participants on the Vonage platform incurs significant costs.
High Scaling Costs
Clearly, scaling is problematic for all these platforms. This explains why their customers incur steep incremental scaling prices as they approach the user limits.
CPaaS providers who choose to leverage XDN infrastructure operate in an entirely different cost environment. They will find that the efficiencies intrinsic to how the platform’s architecture achieves unlimited scalability enable much more user-friendly cost structures.
Red5 Pro has designed XDN architecture to surpass all these scaling, quality, and other limits on the use of WebRTC. This is achieved through automated orchestration of hierarchies of origin, relay, and edge nodes in one or more cloud clusters with fail-safe redundancy that can support uninterrupted session engagements involving millions of people on multiple continents.
Nodes can be deployed on any combination of IaaS cloud platforms leveraging pre-integrations with major suppliers like AWS, Google and Microsoft as well as the multi-cloud integrations achieved through Red5 Pro’s use of the Terraform multi-cloud toolset. While WebRTC is the primary means of streaming video over XDN infrastructure, Red5 Pro iOS and Android SDKs also enable support for real-time streaming to and from mobile devices via Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP).
Video can be ingested in other formats as well, including Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) and MPEG-Transport Protocol (TS), which allows reception of that content by devices tuned to any of those formats without browser support for WebRTC. The XDN platform also provides full support for the multi-profile transcodes used with ABR streaming by utilizing intelligent Edge Node interactions with client devices to deliver content in the profiles appropriate to each user.
As reflected in the previously cited IDC report, video is sure to play an ever larger role in communications supported by CPaaS providers, growing at 43.6% CAGR to generate $3.5 billion in revenue by 2024, compared to a 40.8% CAGR for voice on a trajectory to reach $8.0 billion. With the transformation in video communications capabilities now in sway with the emergence of XDN architecture, it’s highly likely these stats seriously understate the role video will be playing in the fortunes of CPaaS over that timeframe and beyond.
Now CPaaS companies are free to offer a new generation of video communications apps for any market that can benefit from real-time interactions among any number of users at any distance. To learn more about what XDN architecture means to opportunities in the CPaaS sector be sure to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a call.