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OTT is dead - long live the Telecom App Developer

Once they have, argues Alan Quayle in the following invitation OpEd, the world will be a saner place and we can all get on with developing and delivering the services users actually want... telcos included.

The term OTT (Over The Top) really is dumbass and it has to go. It's pejorative. It assumes my ISP has a God-given right to be my principal provider of any services it chooses and any other service provider I select will be in some way deficient.

Both of those propositions are demonstrably false.

Today virtually all services we use on our computers and devices, whether they be feature phones, smartphones, phablets, tablets, laptops, desktops, TVs, thermostats, Chromecasts, PS3s or Rokus are using IP. Even mobile telephony is finally moving to IP with LTE and VoLTE (Voice over LTE). That’s correct. VoLTE is VoIP.

At this point, the “socks and sandals” brigade (overly fussy nerds) will chime in and point out that I’ve forgotten about Quality of Service. "That’s what differentiates," they'll say. "That’s why those services are OTT - they do not have QoS."

Well, the voice over IP Vonage service I’ve been using for the past decade, and before that the AT&T CallVantage service, have not suffered from lack of QoS. And with Opus (WebRTC audio) voice is even better.

At a recent WebRTC workshop demo the WiFi was so congested the webpage downloads were painfully slow while the Opus voice just kept on going. At home we watch Vudu (HDX quality) and Netflix every day with no QoS. And in fact all the other services we access over the internet work without QoS.

When we do see problems, its generally the home network or the website as much as the ISP’s network. And in my experience when it’s the ISP it’s a DNS problem not congestion because all the applications adapt to the capacity available.

We’ve recently seen claims that Verizon is delivering its home control services 'OTT'. (see - US broadband operators go OTT over home automation). This is dumbass, Verizon is delivering its home control services over IP just as it can and should

And while I'm on the subject of inherent contradictions. What IS OTT anyway? Where do we draw the line? Is Google search OTT? Well, my ISP has 'search' on its website.

If it's a question of direct competition with ISP services, then is reading the BBC News website OTT because my ISP has some crappy aggregated news service on its front-page?

The way forward is clear. Let’s drop the term 'OTT'. It’s silly. All services are IP. Most do not need QoS or are prepared to work around not having it. Then, with the emotional crutch of 'OTT' removed, all services will be seen to be more or less equal with none more equal than others.

Telecommunication service providers just need to get on and compete with all the other service providers delivering communication services – not just in around service experience but around operational costs.

And in that regard, I'd maintain that the Telecom App Developer is the key to telcos’ survival. Let me explain briefly.

Telecom application developers range from the hard-core that can use ClearWater, Mobicents, OpenCloud etc. for building core telecom infrastructure applications. This is essential to lower the cost of service operations to that of other providers like Whatsapp and Skype.

Then there are developers building telecom services on platforms like Ameche and using APIs / web-scripting on Tropo, Twilio, APIdaze, RestComm, etc. With WebRTC extending the services out to any web-connected device, these skills will be front and center.

All of these developers come from the IT/Web side, it’s just a matter of specialism. From the few thousand hardcore developers building the infrastructure applications to the tens of millions of developers - some like myself only capable of cut and paste programming but nonetheless building cool stuff - it's clear that the concept of OTT is DEAD.

Long live the Telecoms App Developer!

Please join us at TADS (Telecom Application Developer Summit), the only global meeting place for Telecom Application Developers and Telcos who want to learn, share, code and create with the latest technologies in free and open source telecom software, telecom APIs (and web scripting), telecom application platforms, and WebRTC.

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