In my May 6th blog titled Rich Communications Services (RCS) – SMS/MMS 2.0, I discussed how RCS is making a comeback with the February 22nd GSMA press release. The press release named Google, along with 19 mobile network operators including América Móvil, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, KPN, Millicom, MTN, Orange, TeliaSonera, Telstra, Turkcell, VimpelCom, and Vodafone, aligning behind RCS. In this blog, I would like to dig a little deeper into what RCS is and how it benefits network operators and subscribers.
RCS uses the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure to deliver enhanced communications beyond basic voice and SMS. These include group messaging, content sharing, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Internet Protocol (IP) video calling, file transfer, social networking, and more. The differentiator for RCS is that it enables the delivery of these services across devices and on any network, with the caveat that the phone must support RCS.
For network operators, RCS is a must. Why? Bluntly put, it is the only fighting chance they have against Over-the-top (OTT) apps. RCS provides them with an opportunity to increase their revenue, or at least preserve their existing revenues, while enabling the continuation of operator-centric messaging services. Additionally, RCS opens up a platform for future innovation and is the key to generating new revenue streams. Collaborative action by network operators is also beneficial as it leverages the unique proposition of ubiquity, global interoperability, QoS assurance, and privacy and security management.
For subscribers, a big advantage RCS offers is that it is tied to their phone number. In other words, no need to download or register another app and tie your identity to it as required for OTT apps. With this comes the advantage of RCS being offered directly by the network operator without the need for a third-party, unlike OTT apps where an internet connection is required. Also, RCS offers cross-operator interoperability while continuing to provide a secure service.
To be fair, it is not all rosy for RCS. For example, the fact that it is only backed by one organization (GSMA) to date is a concern, or that moving to an IMS infrastructure is an expensive proposition, especially for smaller network operators, which can seriously delay its global acceptance. Not to mention, the iPhone has no RCS support, nor does Apple intend to provide it as the company has its own proprietary solutions—Facetime and iMessage.
That said, the future of RCS is still very bright as the adoption of IMS networks and Voice over LTE is still increasing, and will continue to increase, and RCS is a natural progression for service upgrades within those deployments.