The ins-and-outs of RCS: What you should know

OpenMarket – January 17, 2017

SMS text messaging has been around for over 20 years. In that time, it has maintained its position as the most flexible, easy to use, and immediate form of communication in the digital age—over email, voice calls, social messaging platforms. In fact, it hasn’t just maintained, it’s actually continually gained steam—with the majority of millennials, often touted as the most digitally savvy among us, preferring to communicate with businesses through this convenient and familiar channel.

Part of SMS’s success can also be attributed to its reach with consumers. SMS is universally available—be it on Android, iPhone, or other mobile device—and is constantly self-reflecting. How can it be even more valuable to its users? Offer read receipts to confirm when a message has been successfully delivered. Or, reveal when someone is typing so you don’t act in haste.

As for what SMS currently has brewing, that comes in the form of RCS, or Rich Communications Services.

What is RCS?

RCS is widely described as an “upgrade” to SMS. I prefer to describe it as the next evolution of SMS, or SMS 2.0. RCS builds off of SMS technology to deliver users an enhanced messaging experience. Think better group chat capabilities, high resolution photo sharing, video chat, and of course, the standard read receipts and person typing indicators. RCS allows for the next generation of messaging, similar to enhanced messages sent through a third-party app, to be sent instead of basic SMS—the predominant text messaging channel universally available on the mobile device. Ultimately, RCS is another example of the end of the app era, as there will be no need to download a specific app and create an account in order to use its visual capabilities.

Background Story

RCS evolved as a means to “challenge the new status quo” of communication technology, as standard text messaging was perceived to have hit its peak and needed a dose of new, enhanced, digital experiences. While it may seem like just yesterday that video and photo capabilities were incorporated into text messages, it was actually 10 years ago that the first industry attempt at RCS was launched by the GSM Association (GSMA). The organization added instant messaging, group chat abilities, live video and image sharing to virtually any device, regardless of the network. The invention of this rich content messaging had the added perk of unifying users through mobile communication on a functional, consistent standard.

Current Momentum

Today, over 100 million active users utilize this advanced messaging channel across the United States, Europe, and India. It has the capacity to knock down barriers that other players in the industry, such as over the top (OTT) messaging apps, that are siloed communities. RCS can scale—including the ability to allow communication and sharing between users regardless of what device, application, or network they utilize. RCS is being touted as containing the ability to bring forward truly ubiquitous mobile communication.

In February of last year, the GSMA announced that Google is helping to create a universal RCS client that will enable all GSMA carriers to provide RCS services. The Android RCS client provided by Google (based on Google’s acquisition of Jibe Mobile) will enable consumers to access RCS services including live video, high res photo sharing, and group chat. The GSMA-Google Android RCS initiative provides the opportunity to rapidly deploy RCS to potentially 800 GSMA carriers.

Why Consumers Care

RCS has numerous benefits for consumers, including being able to see when someone is typing and when that person has read your message, therefore eliminating uncertainty when engaging in mobile communications.

Along with the practicality of text messaging, RCS delivers a fundamental upgrade via richer content capabilities that incorporate high quality images and video. It’s no wonder that 79 percent of consumers see advanced messaging as relevant and 89 percent say its services are unique.

The goal for RCS is to ultimately exist on every phone, through every carrier, allowing consumers to connect with everyone in their network. With the technology currently growing at a 15 percent monthly rate, universal adoption of RCS is inevitable.


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