Understanding the intricacies of Video API Pricing across CPaaS providers: Selecting the Most Affordable CPaaS Provider

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Understanding the intricacies of Video API Pricing across CPaaS providers
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As enterprises increasingly seek to implement communications solutions to meet their specific business needs, such as augmenting user experience, easier onboarding or improving internal communications etc., their consumption of these solutions increases exponentially and that’s where cost becomes a critical business consideration. Video API Pricing, therefore, becomes a deciding factor in selecting a CPaaS provider for integration.  

While it sounds as simple as comparing the cost per minute of video usage, comparing the Video Call API pricing of various CPaaS providers is not as straightforward as you may think it to be. The rate cards of different vendors may appear deceptively simple, but the reality lies in difficult-to-comprehend fine prints. 

The same item listed on the pricing page of various CPaaS providers can have significantly different meanings and calculation methodologies, making the published rate inadequate to be used as a reliable measure of comparison. Complex tariff calculation formulas, unique interpretation of similar items, hidden and additional charges and fixed recurring costs etc., create a significant challenge in making a simple comparison.   

For example, even the most straightforward item, such as “video minutes” can be calculated in multiple ways depending on the CPaaS provider, making the same meeting session have different values for this parameter. Later in this article, we will demonstrate clearly how the same video meeting will have very different metrics for different CPaaS vendors. To understand what you will actually end up paying, you also need to understand how each provider calculates the usage and how their video call API pricing varies for different add-on services.   

In this blog post, we have provided a high-level overview of the pricing aspects of Video APIs by various CPaaS providers. 

4 Things To Consider in Video API Pricing  

 

  • Video Minutes

Video minutes are just that simple! It’s the number of minutes of a video call. So, why do you see prices varying by 5-10x between providers? The reason is simple: various CPaaS providers have different “minutes”. That means they calculate video minutes differently.  

In most instances, you will come across two terms while calculating video API pricing: “Subscriber Minutes” and “Participant Minutes”. The billing amount of the same video conferencing session may vary significantly depending on whether the CPaaS provider uses Subscriber Minutes or Participant Minutes as their billing methods.     

Let’s understand the maths behind these two terms with a simple example. If there are ‘N’ participants in a video meeting: 

Subscriber Minutes= N *(N-1) * (Duration in minutes) 

Participant Minutes= N* (Duration in minutes)  

You can easily see that Subscriber Minutes are a multiple of Participant Minutes for any video meeting. As the number of participants increases, the Subscriber Minutes value increases exponentially.  

Consequently, if two CPaaS providers have the same rate but use different mechanisms to calculate video minutes, using Subscriber Minutes will end up having a much higher billing for a user.   

Therefore, what may look like a CPaaS vendor is offering a low rate per minute will actually balloon to a very high cost as they calculate video minutes differently.   

On the other hand, the CPaaS provider using the Participant Minutes for billing may look higher initially, but it will be significantly lower compared to the provider who charges on the basis of Subscriber Minutes. Additionally, some CPaaS providers also charge separately for audio and video minutes so that the unit pricing of each appears lower, but these are added, the pricing increases significantly than other providers. 

 

  • Video Resolution 

Another area where pricing gets manipulated is “Video Resolution”. We are familiar with the terms like SD/HD/Full HD etc., however, CPaaS providers use different ways to classify and interpret these terms. Here, you’ll generally come across two terms: Participant Resolution and Cumulative Resolution.   

Participant resolution is termed as SD/HD/Full HD and it usually shows separate pricing for each one. However, Cumulative Resolution, aka Aggregate Resolution, is where things get murky. It is calculated as sum of the individual resolutions of every video stream in a session. And then, on the basis of this sum, the pricing varies.   

For instance, if there are three people in a video call with each video stream running at 1280*720 pixels, the cumulative video resolution will be calculated as 3 x (1280x 720) = 2,764,800 pixels. And now, this value will be used for calculating the cost.    

Now, if another provider considers 960×720 as standard HD quality without considering screen sharing as an individual media stream, the billing will be much lower compared to the above scenario.  

It’s important for you to understand that there is no standard definition of “HD” or “HD+” in the business world. Therefore, check carefully whether the CPaaS provider you want to select follows such arbitrary classifications. 

 

  • Screen Sharing

A CPaaS vendor may treat screen sharing as a separate video participant, which may significantly inflate your billing amount. Suppose a provider considers the screen sharing an independent video participant and uses Subscriber Minutes to calculate billing. In that case, you will pay much more due to the multiplier effect.  

 

  • Add-on Features

Recording, transcoding, storage, interactive whiteboard, live streaming, encryption and analytics are crucial add-on features in a video session. CPaaS providers may charge differently to provide these features. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to this aspect. Some vendors may include these without additional charge, but most providers charge for each component and add the cost of these add-on features in the final billing. 

Comparing The Video API Pricing of 4 CPaaS Providers: Agora, Vonage, Twilio & EnableX 

When we compare pricing, we can use the following examples to illustrate. Let’s say there are two video meeting sessions that were done. We have compiled the relevant information for various parameters in the table given below: 

Parameter Meeting 1 Meeting 2
The Number of Participants 3 10
Duration 30 minutes 30 minutes
Participants using video 3 10
Participants using Audio 3 10
Screen Sharing 1 1
Participant Video Quality (in pixels) 960×720 960×720
Recording 30 minutes 30 minutes

So, how do various CPaaS providers price their services? We have compiled the relevant information in the following table:

Provider Video Minutes Resolution Screen Share Recording
agora_logo Subscriber Minutes Cumulative As Video Stream Resolution Based
vonage_logo Participant Minutes Participant Not Charged Resolution Based
twilio_logo Participant Minutes Participant Not Charged Resolution + Functions Based
enablex_logo Participant Minutes Participant Not Charged Flat Rate

* Audio charged separately 

Agora Video API Pricing

On the basis the above details, let’s calculate the pricing for Meeting 1 and Meeting 2 for Agora.

Cost = [Audio Unit Price+ Video Unit Price]

+

[Subscriber Minutes {Including Screen Share as a Participant}]

Agora calculates Subscriber Minutes as shown below:

Meeting 1 Meeting 2
Subscriber Minutes 360 minutes (4x3x30) 3300 minutes (11x10x30)
Cumulative Resolution 2,764,800 (4 x (960×720)) 7,603,200 (11 x (960×720))
Agora Resolution Category 2K 2K+
Screen Sharing 1 1
Recording 30 minutes 30 minutes

*Agora considers screen sharing stream as one participant.

 

Pricing of various items in Agora are as follows

Item Unit Price
Audio $0.99/1000 minutes
Video Subscriber Minutes 2K $15.99/1000 minutes
Video Subscriber Minutes 2K+ $35.99/1000 minutes
Recording Audio $1.49/1000 minutes
Recording Video 2K $23.99/1000 minutes
Recording Video 2K+ $53.99/1000 minutes

Based on the information provided above, Agora’s pricing for Video API will be: 

Meeting 1: US$ 6.83 

Meeting 2: US$ 57.65 

*Agora also charges for interactive whiteboard and analytics for different pricing plans.    

Source: Agora Pricing

Vonage  Video API Pricing

Vonage offers usage-based or participant-based pricing plans. It takes into account the number of participants in a video session.  

Cost = [Participant Minutes x Cost Per Participant Minute] 

 

[Recording Duration x Recording Cost for HD Composed Archive] 

Vonage calculates Participant Minutes as follows

Meeting 1 Meeting 2
Participant Minutes 90 minutes (3×30) 300 minutes (10×30)
Screen Sharing 1 1
Recording Duration 30 minutes 30 minutes

Pricing details for various items in Vonage Video API are given below:

Item Unit Price
Video $.00395 per participant, per minute
Features Provided Core features includes video, voice, screen-sharing etc.
HD Recording – Composed Archive $0.035 per archive minute

On the basis of above information, the pricing of Vonage will be: 

Meeting 1: $1.40 

Meeting 2: $2.25 

Source: Vonage Pricing  

* Vonage has monthly subscription plans that include advanced features like encrypted video recording, advanced firewall controls etc.   

Twilio Video API Pricing 

Twilio’s video pricing is based on the video usage. However, first they charge for recording each individual video participant and then they charge for mixing all the streams into one video to view them later. This is called Recording Video Rate and Composing Video Rate by Twilio. Their prices also vary with resolution.  

Cost = [Participant Minutes x Cost Per Participant Minute]  

            + 

[Participant Minutes x Recording Video Rate per Participant Minute] 

            + 

 [Recording Duration x Composing Video Rate] 

Twilio calculates Participant Minutes as follows:

Meeting 1 Meeting 2
Participant Minutes 90 minutes (3×30) 300 minutes (10×30)
Screen Sharing 1 1
Recording Duration 30 minutes 30 minutes

Pricing details of various items in Twilio are as follows:  

Item Unit Price
Programmable Video Pricing $.004 per participant, per minute
Recording Video Rate $0.004 per recorded Participant minute
Composing Video Rate $0.01 per composed minutes

* Recording is charged at $0.004 per participant minute. However, to playback recordings, you need to pay extra for Video Compositions Services.   

Based on the above information, Twilio’s Video API pricing in two different scenarios is: 

Meeting 1: $ 1.02 

Meeting 2: $ 2.70 

Source: Twilio Pricing  

Though Twilio looks cheaper but the catch is it charges for recording at multiple levels:  

  • to record a call 
  • to playback recordings  
  • for composite recordings 
  • to archive recorded video ($0.05 GB per month) 

EnableX Video API Pricing

Among all CPaaS vendors, EnableX billing formula is most transparent and straightforward among all CPaaS providers: 

 (Unit cost) * (the number of participants) * (session duration) +Recording video cost+ Transcoding cost 

EnableX calculates Participant Minutes as follows:   

Meeting 1 Meeting 2
Participant Minutes 90 minutes (3×30) 300 minutes (10×30)
Screen Sharing 1 1
Recording Duration 30 minutes 30 minutes

Pricing details of various items in EnableX Video API are as follows:

Item Unit Price
Programmable Video Pricing $.003 per participant, per minute
Recording Video Rate $0.0075 Per participant per minute
Transcoding $0.0050 per minute

Based on the above details, the billing for the  above two scenarios will be:  

Meeting 1: $1.095

Meeting 2: $2.55  

Source: EnableX Pricing 

* EnableX provides Reporting and Analytics free while other providers charge for this feature.  

Video API Pricing Comparison Summary: Agora, Vonage, Twilio & EnableX    

Provider Meeting 1 Meeting 2
agora_logo $ 6.83 $ 57.65
vonage_logo $1.40 $2.25
twilio_logo $ 1.14 $ 2.70
enablex_logo $1.095 $2.55

* All pricing figures are in USD 

Wrapping up

The key takeaway is that published pricing can be deceptive. It may look attractive and competitive, but you’ll have a big surprise when you get the final bill. Therefore, choosing a CPaaS provider with a simple billing formula is advisable.

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