I recently heard from a colleague who was at Mobile World Congress this year that he actually saw a resurgence of Rich Communications Services (RCS)“Resurgence” is the right word, as RCS is not new, especially after the February 22nd press release from GSMA announcing that Google and some of the world’s largest and leading network operators are aligning behind RCS.
This is good news for network operators as it enables them to better compete with over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps like Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. At a very high level, RCS is essentially SMS/MMS that can work over IP networks and can enable presence and location, and sharing of media. RCS brings to operators the next-generation messaging features they have been lacking due to the fact that current operator messaging is based on the old SMS protocol dating back to before networks could carry internet data.
Why is it so important for network operators to have you use SMS (text messaging) instead of OTT apps, since you are, after all, still using their data? In short, it’s because they don’t want to lose the main interface with the customer and become a “dumb pipe.” Once they lose the main interface, they lose a lot of revenue opportunities from value added services. SMS is also one of the most highly utilized and essential feature to the customer. According to 2012 forecasts from Forrester Research, they reported that more than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the US in 2011, which equates to more than 6 billion SMS messages sent per day, with text messaging users sending or receiving an average of 35 messages per day. These numbers were a 14% increase compared with 2010. You can imagine where the numbers are today.
When RCS was first introduced, a lot of pundits said it was pointless as OTT messaging apps already did everything RCS said it could and would do. That may be true. However, as a user, the big benefit of RCS is that it is tied to the phone number, not an app. In other words, there’s no need to download or register another app and tying your identity to it. Also, RCS offers cross-operator interoperability. For the Network Operator, it is a way to get back into the messaging market and be a serious competitor to the OTT apps and make some money.
In fact, RCS is doing just that according to a recent study by ABI Research: “While RCS currently constitutes 32% of the total messaging revenue generated worldwide, ABI Research, the leader in transformative technology innovation market intelligence, expects its share to increase to 72% by 2021.”
RCS brings many of the features that people expect from mobile messaging today, such as group chats, high resolution photos, location sharing, and more. Bottom line… messaging capabilities are expanding and delivering content that is contextual and immediate, and if network operators want to keep messaging a part of the communications mix they offer (which they should), they need RCS.