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Operators Get Back in the Game with RCS

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

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.

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