Operators Get Back in the Game with RCS

Operators Get Back in the Game with RCS

Summary: The Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard gives mobile operators an easy way to offer sophisticated services to their customers.

TOPICS: ÜberTech

I have a Luddite friend who claims to only want two features in his mobile. “I want to be able to call people,” he says, “and have people call me.” Obviously, the poor chap ends up paying for a lot of features he doesn’t use, because devices that simple are practically extinct.

He’s decidedly unlike me, as I mentioned a few weeks back, and unlike most people, who are snapping up smartphones and enjoying all the new possibilities mobile technologies deliver.

Fact is, we’re already communicating with way more than just voice or SMS. We’re videoconferencing. We’re sharing our photos and videos. But we still want more. What about live-streaming our kids’ birthday parties for those unable to attend? It seems like all the pieces are there: our mobiles have the cameras. 4G networks can handle the file sizes. But how do we broadcast, and how do people on the other end receive what we’re sending?

Rich Communication Services (RCS), a standard developed by GSMA, aims to make all these new mobile communication methods widely available and simple to use. Also branded as Joyn, RCS supports instant messaging/chat, live video and file sharing across any device on any network. As 4G LTE becomes more widespread and more powerful phones hit the market, RCS will provide a foundation for all kinds of new services.

RCS also aims to help mobile operators match the simplicity that has been one of the key factors in the success of over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber. (So called because they go “over the top” of operators’ networks and offer free, new communication services such as instant messaging or video chat.)

OTT offerings are good at making complicated technology easier to use, but only so much, and they’re limited in that each one only does certain things. WhatsApp, for instance, scans my address book and can tell me which contacts I can reach on its network. That makes it easy to use. However, to get to that point, I have to install these OTT apps and learn how to use them—and so does everyone else I want to connect with. That’s a little bit complicated. I cannot, for example, Skype with my voice-only friend.

RCS, on the other hand, will provide a single standard for a myriad of services that will all work in a similar fashion to each other, and in the same way no matter what kind of device and which operator you use. Think of it like automated cash machines: though every bank has its own branded version, they all work about the same way, and most will accept your bankcard.

Today, SAP Mobile Services (full disclosure: my employer) is announcing a new, hosted approach to rich services, based on RCS. Operators no longer need to buy, install, configure, or integrate anything into their networks to bring new services to customers. There’s no capital expenditure. Operators simply sign up and pay as they go, like with any cloud-based service. SAP Mobile handles the technology, maintenance, and scaling. Operators can focus on marketing and selling the services. Learn more about it here. Or, if you happen to be in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress this week, stop by and see us at the SAP booth in Hall 7, 7C70.

Topic: ÜberTech


Diarmuid Mallon is the Director, Global Marketing Solutions & Programs – Mobile, which includes the SAP Mobile Services division and SAP Mobile solutions. He has worked in the mobile industry since 1996. Follow him here at ÜberTech and @diarmuidmallon.

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  • We Don't Want This

    All this kind of thing can be done over standard Internet protocols, all we need from the carriers is a pipe to carry the bits, nothing more. What we as customers do with those bits is none of their business.

    Of course, this completely scares the pants off them. They don't want to be reduced to mere providers of plumbing, they want to be able to take their cut from the value flowing through their network.

    Unfortunately, they can't do this without getting in the way of their customers.
  • Should we pay?

    Once the RCS match the simplicity (that you call later complexity) of the OTT players, will it also match their free-ness? Or the operators would like to gain 40% profit as well?
    VoIP solutions should be free (or with very lean margin) to compete with OTT. Neither customers nor operators need a paralel solution that will not be global, comes late, and will not make money.
    The operators don't need new technology, they need new business model.