The big mobile operators have launched Joyn, a suite of features such as instant messaging and video-calling that is going to be embedded in a large variety of handsets.
Joyn is the consumer-facing brand for Rich Communication Services (RCS), a scheme that the mobile industry has been working on for a few years as a way of regaining control over their users. It was unveiled on Monday at the start of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, along with version 5 of the RCS specification.
As people have become accustomed to going to Apple or Google's app stores for new functionality, operators have found themselves increasingly providing little more than basic connectivity. RCS, or Joyn, is their riposte, giving customers features such as enhanced messaging and voice, geolocation, cloud storage and the sharing of documents and photos during calls.
"There is clear consumer demand for enriched messaging and voice services, and Rich Communications provides mobile network operators with solutions to address these consumer needs, as well as paving the way for future, innovative IP-based voice and messaging services," Anne Bouverot, director general of industry body the GSM Association (GSMA) said in a statement on Monday.
"These services will be delivered to consumers in a seamless way and with the level of innovation, quality of service and attention to privacy that they have come to expect from their mobile operator," Bouverot added.
The idea behind Joyn is to give customers a clear way of seeing whether their phone contacts have devices that are also capable of handling RCS — this kind of interoperability information was lacking in the industry's previous rich communications drives, such as MMS.
Joyn apps for Android are being shown off at MWC, and in the coming months they will be joined by iOS apps and devices with the capabilities built in.
There is clear consumer demand for enriched messaging and voice services, and Rich Communications provides mobile network operators with solutions to address these consumer needs.– Anne Bouverot, GSMA
Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone have already been testing interoperability between their networks, and are likely to launch commercial Joyn/RCS services this summer. Operators in France, Germany, Italy and Korea will also offer commercial services this year, the GSMA said.
A large number of major operators have joined the RCS push. Apart from those already mentioned, the list includes AT&T, Bell Mobility, Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, KPN, KT, LGU+, Orascom Telecom, Rogers Communications, SFR, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, Telus and Verizon.
"Since Rich Communications will be fully integrated in devices, there is no need for our customers to download or install anything," Deutsche Telekom chief Rene Obermann said in the statement. "Ease of use is thus ensured and it will just work. We are looking forward to offer new services like text chat, file and live video sharing during a call to our customers soon."
On the device side, manufacturers that have agreed to support RCS in their handsets include HTC, Huawei, LG, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, Sony and ZTE. Infrastructure companies including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks, Mavenir and Acme Packet have also announced their support.