Choosing the Right WebRTC Provider at the Right Price

By Charlotta Liukas on October 17, 2017
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Each year, getting started with WebRTC is easier (and cheaper), however, decisions made at the start of your project still greatly affect your project’s long-term adaptability, scalability and cost. Each major platform provider has their own special focus on some aspect of WebRTC’s potential. A careful choice of providers before starting development can prevent expensive refactoring and/or re-architecting as your WebRTC project grows.

The main focal points to consider when budgeting: capability, scalability, and cost. Below, we will compare offerings from several interesting vendors.

Where They Agree

All major WebRTC platform providers want to make it easy to start using their product. That means it is free for the initial low-volume. As implementations scale-up in volume or the use-case goes beyond minimal functionality, the costs go up as well and for very high volumes, they charge a lower pay-as-you-go rate (concave model).

For a minimal implementation of WebRTC using well-established functionalites, the best answer to the question “How much to get started?” is “very little, if anything at all”. All major providers offer a free API and SDK downloads. All offer pay-as-you-go pricing with no minimum (or at a trivial monthly cost). Very few demand long-term contracts. All platform providers are anxious to get you into the fold and keep you with them.

Most WebRTC platforms offer something resembling “professional services” to help integrate your site with their service. This can be invaluable to a small company seeking to augment an overworked dev team. However, that help comes at what can be a considerable additional cost. It also presupposes a readiness to receive whatever help the services team might offer.

Where They Differ

The major differences among providers often come down to which facet of communications they emphasize as their bread-and-butter. Some (like Plivo) are largely voice- and SMS-centric. Agora emphasizes real-time hi-res video. Twilio tries to take a balanced approach. Thus, it pays to consider exactly which WebRTC capabilities your project will use both near- and long-term before committing to a provider. Find a platform provider with the right strengths for better results – and ultimately, lower costs.

Since WebRTC is still a rapidly-evolving technology, it’s likely that different providers will eventually match each other’s offerings at some time. However, that might not happen in lockstep with your project’s demands. If you think you’re going to use real-time hi-res video at some point, choose a provider that offers it today.

Keep in mind that the basic pay-as-you-go pricing advertised at the outset often applies to only one type of WebRTC capability. As a rep from one provider offering pay-as-you-go plans put it, pricing on video WebRTC is “fairly nuanced,” with charges assigned not only to total time connected, but screen resolution and even geographic location. That means a strong analysis of real usage and volumes is essential to getting an accurate idea of costs.

Handling Personal Identifiable Information

Real-time communication entails certain legalities. With the incorporation of WebRTC into your website, you effectively become a telecommunication provider – per official definitions established by the FCC. Scary though that might sound, it’s not a huge management challenge given support from the right provider.

Some platform providers are more acquainted with the specific requirements of regulatory frameworks like HIPAA or Sabanes-Oxley. Select a provider who knows the impacts of the rules and regulations incumbent upon your specific industry and customer base.

Some providers – like Tokbox – offer archiving of communications as an extra-cost add-on. This can be an essential requirement given some regulatory scenarios. If archiving is required, having the platform provider do it might be more cost-effective than a homebrewed solution.

The Ecoystem

The following WebRTC providers all are established players in the game. As of October 2017, all currently provide strong services for their customers. One just might be right for your project.

Audio-only

Twilio’s Programmable Voice provides an API to build an audio app. Outbound and inbound WebRTC calls starting at $0.0040 per minute, with volume and committed use discounts available to premium customers.

Amazon Connect leverages Amazon’s cloud infrastructure to deliver an extremely robust set of voice-centric contact-center services. There is no contract or monthly fee. Access to Amazon Connect in the US is free for 90 minutes per month for the first year with access to the AWS Free Tier. Costs vary for each country/region, inbound/outbound, etc., For example, the inbound calls in the US are priced at $0.0030 per minute.

Bandwidth.com offers their services under the umbrella term CPaaS –
Communications Platform as a Service. They support voice, text messaging, and conference calling. In the voice, they specifically also support IVRs. They offer low and high volume plans for small scale app developers and heavy users alike.

Plivo is intensely voice/SMS focused, with services spanning the globe. Native SIP support is offered for full integration with VoIP. Global SMS support is a key offering. Inbound calls start at $0.0085 per minute, while outbound SMS starts at $0.0035 per message. Plivo claims to offer “wholesale pricing from the start,” but also invites potential customers to contact them for volume discounts.

Voxbone’s cloud telephony offering focuses on providing a wide geographical reach, with innovative features like speech analytics and click-to-call interfaces. Voxbone offers flat monthly pricing packages, in three tiers: A Starter packet is going to cost you a fixed $500 a month, whereas the Growth and Scale Up packets will take up $2500 and $5000 respectively. That “starter package” includes unlimited use of landlines with no per-minute fees. Higher tiers reflect a lower per-user/per- line cost. They also offer add-ons like global SMS, fax support, and interconnection with their private VoIP network.

Messagebird provide SMS, Chat, and Voice APIs to power up contact centers and customer care. Outbound calls run at $0.011 per minute whereas inbound calling starts with $0.0033, and lastly no cost for calls to SIP URLs.

Audio and Video

TokBox offers interactive video, video broadcast, voice (via SIP), and text messaging (via SMS/chat). A monthly base fee of $9.99 includes 2000 subscribed minutes (it is per receiver, and the sender does not pay for upstreaming their video). Higher volumes are priced in tiers starting at $0.00475/subscribed minute for the 2 000-100 000 minutes and thereafter decreases to $0.00400/subscribed minute. TokBox’s free SDK is compatible with all major browsers and mobile systems.

OnSIP is the developer of SIP.js, a JavaScript library that helps developers add a full SIP signaling stack to their WebRTC applications. OnSIP gets clients started with a free package that includes up to 100 users, web voice, web video, and even multi-party video. Access to their API is free as well. Their pay-as-you-go packages are tiered based on the number of users (first 100 are free, $2 for the next 900, $1.50 for the next 9,000, and $1 for everything after that) with a standard monthly fee of $49.95. You can also add a la carte features such as auto attendants, conference bridges, music on hold, voicemail boxes, and more.

Vidyo provides multi-party video APIs for the web, mobile, and native endpoints. A fixed $65/month pricing point will bring you ongoing support and includes up to 6500 minutes of real-time communications.

Agora offers a wide set of services, with hi-res video being the star of the show. WebRTC services are priced by type of service, with voice at $0.99 per 1000 minutes ($0,00099 per minute). Video of 720p or less is priced at $3.99 per 1000 minutes (or $0,00399/minute), while hi-res commands a $14.99 for the same time ($0,01499). All pricing is pay-as-you-go with no upfront cost, and the first 10 000 minutes per month are free.

Twilio Programmable Video covers all the bases as well, with API’s for voice, video, and messaging. Twilio places special emphasis on user verification and security. The services are priced individually, starting at $0.0010 per minute/participant. All services are offered as pay-as-you-go, with no contracts and no minimum fees.

How much do they cost?

Cost is of course but one consideration when deciding on which SDK or PaaS to go with. Regardless, knowing how vendors compare to each other cost-wise can help with planning. To this end, we compared the above mentioned WebRTC providers’ pricing models, with the following specs: How much would it cost to deliver 100k daily user minutes of P2P conferences for 22 working days in a month?

The scenario is based on the assumption of total user minutes, i.e. the sum of all conference participants either speaking or listening. So, if there are two participants in a 5-minute call, total user minutes would be 10 minutes.

The table, divided into audio-only and audio-video, shows considerable differences in the higher call volumes.

Type Vendor name Pricing model Calculation Result 
Audio Amazon Connect* $0.018 / minute + $0.003 / minute + $0.0120 / day 0.012×22 + 22×0.018×X + 0.003×X×22 = 46,200
Audio Bandwidth.com inbound 1000 subscription + $0.013 / minute 0.013*X+1000 = 29,600
Audio Bandwidth.com outbound $1000 subscription + $0.009 / minute 0.008*X+1000 = 18,600
Audio Messagebird inbound $0.0033 / minute + $30 30+0.0033*X = 2,790
Audio Messagebird outbound $0.011 / minute + $30 30+0.011*X = 24,230
Audio Plivo $0.003 / minute 0.003×X×22 = 6,600
Audio Twilio Voice inbound $0.0040 / min 0.004×X×22 = 8,800
Audio Twilio Voice outbound $0.0040 / min 0.004×X×22 = 8,800
Video Agora $3.99 / 1000 minutes (first 10000 minutes free) for up to 720p video 3.99*(X-10000)/1000 = 8,738
Video Twilio Video $0.0045 / min (1-1 HD Video call) 0.0045×22×X = 9,900
Video TokBox $0.00400 + base fee $9.99 0.004×X×22 + 9.99 = 8,810
Video Vidyo $65/month for 6500 minutes + $0.01 / min (X×22 - 6500)×0.01 + 65 = 22,000

All pricing comparisons are in USD. Please note that the sums are indicative and based on publically available information at the time of research. We included services with visible PAYG pricing components. Notice anything off? Contact us and we’ll keep updating this blog post.

*In the context of Amazon Connect, we are considering their SIP Trunking plans. The rest of the services are considered as P2P WebRTC calls.

Summary

WebRTC is a new technology with many high-quality platform providers involved already. Competition is intense among the major providers, each of which has their own specialization in the market. By building a comprehensive use case for your project, you’ll be able to find the provider that offers the best overall value proposition not only in terms of cost per subscribed minute, but for the ongoing costs of development and regulatory compliance.

Callstats.io is integrated with many of the popular WebRTC providers, and we’re continuously adding more integrations. Take a look at our SDK library.

Want to contribute to the story, or add your own SDK to the list? Send a note to growth(a)callstats.io.

Updated:
* 10/23 Updated OnSIP description
* 11/01 Added a clarification on ‘total user minutes’


Tags: WebRTC