When it comes to pricing an audio or video call between two individuals, almost every platform can offer a similar, competitive rate card on the surface, but bill a radically different cost for the same call
It is a well-established fact that businesses are increasingly looking for enterprise communications solutions to ensure business continuity, create distinct consumer experiences, and enable multilateral collaborations. As most mid and large-size companies look at implementing communications platforms according to their specific needs, often budget becomes the deciding factor between the plethora of options available today. However, the pricing of most CPaaS or Communications APIs service providers is not as simple, transparent, and comparable as it is for, say, telecom providers (think how easy it is to choose among the top 3-4 telecom service providers based on their tariff plans). Thus, CTOs and IT heads need to scratch beneath the surface to compare the pricing of shortlisted service providers to avoid any shockers at the time of billing.
Here are some filters that they can use:
Video Call Room Size: The first and foremost consideration is the room size for any video call. While some platforms charge based on the number of participants and the number of minutes that they are part of the call, i.e., for a 2 min video call among 3 participants, the calculation will be 3(participants) x 2(minutes) x tariff; others charge based on other parameters like “per subscribed minutes”. Using “subscribed minutes” as a metric makes the billing more complicated as “subscribed minutes” are calculated as N(participants) x (N-1) x Duration, where N is the number of participants and Duration is the total duration of the video call. Using the same example of 3 participants over a 2-minute video call, the resulting charges would be 3 (participants) x (3-1) x 2(minutes) x tariff. So, even if both platforms offer the same tariff, the former is half the total cost of the latter, who are using “subscribed minutes” as their pricing metric. And this example is only based on a 3-party call. Imagine if it is a larger group call, the cost will be exponentially higher!
Screen sharing: Be it online team meetings, a video conference, or a client presentation, we cannot imagine a collaborative digital world without screen sharing. Often, to make the pricing competitive, platforms talk about key metrics such as the number of participants, call minutes, and recording minutes only. However, the fine print is that many of them count every screen share as one additional (up and down) stream of communication, which is treated as an additional participant. This increases the net cost of every session significantly. Thus, it is important to consider using a platform that does not charge clients for screen sharing to make video calls more productive at an optimal cost.
Cumulative Resolution: As businesses look to create ‘life-like’ digital experiences, high-definition multilateral video calls are not a luxury but a need of the hour. While some platforms explicitly state the price for HD and HD+ calls, they attach a unique meaning to these labels. For instance, even if all the participants on a call are using standard definition, as long as the participant’s cumulative video resolution remains more than 921,600 pixels, it is automatically considered an HD+ call. In another case, even if there are merely two people on the call, but one of them is sharing her screen (screen sharing mandatorily needs HD+), the entire call will be charged as HD+. This is a big and deliberate gap in their marketing communication to convince CTOs to subscribe to a seemingly low-cost plan, which may eventually charge HD+ price while offering an SD experience. It is advisable to choose a provider that does charge anything extra for HD+ experience. This allows clients to easily offer an HD+ experience to their stakeholders without having to bother about the nitty-gritty of individual and cumulative resolutions.
The key takeaway from the above is that when it comes to pricing an audio or video call between two individuals, almost every platform can offer a similar, competitive rate card on the surface, but bill a radically different cost for the same call. The game starts changing when businesses scale up and need technology to support deeper, more efficient, and seamless collaboration. The complex tariff formulae carved out of microscopic terms and conditions could lead to billing disasters for businesses. The thumb rule here is to opt for a platform that is upfront about the fine prints and uses a simple billing formula based on the tariff and number of users. There should not be any additional or hidden charges for screen sharing, added resolution, etc. since these are bread and butter for everyone who works in an online environment and cannot be charged as a luxury. The formula also helps businesses project their IT expenses and streamline their budgets with higher certainty and without undue surprises.
The author is CEO & Founder, EnableX.io