In a decidedly Google-style move, the company just announced at Mobile World Congress the formation of a partnership with 19 international carriers and the GSM Association (GSMA) to work on the development and deployment of Rich Communications Service (RCS). Google also announced they will be introducing a RCS based messaging client to Android, and its Jibe RCS cloud platform
RCS is an evolution of the basic SMS and MMS systems that we all use on our phones today. The Jibe page puts forth its case for the new standard:
Texting changed the way we communicate, but it’s out of date. Today we want messaging that lets us do things like share high-res photos and larger files, chat with a group, know when messages are read, or make video calls.
RCS makes all this possible, and now the mobile industry is coming together to bring it to users everywhere.
Technically RCS will allow a standardised approach for inter carrier messaging that supports group chat, high-res images, read receipts, video calls and ‘more’ features. If that sounds familiar, that would be because you’ve probably been using messaging solutions that offer similar features like Hangouts, Telegram and more. The important distinction here is that this is a common standard as defined by the GSMA that would allow cross-carrier and – if adopted by other mobile OS developers (hello Microsoft and Apple) – cross-platform messaging from any compatible client with a pretty rich feature set.
It gets sticky at this point, though – at present only Google has announced support for the standard, and of course not all carriers have signed on. Today’s announcement claims the addition of 19 new carriers to a group numbering some 47 operators in 34 countries who apparently already have RCS deployed. For carriers who don’t want to deploy their own RCS infrastructure, Google will provide access to their Jibe platform. According to Google, the Jibe Cloud can help carriers quickly scale RCS services: “The Jibe Hub provides mobile operators with a simple connection to the global RCS network. Easily interoperable with third-party RCS networks, one connection delivers worldwide interconnection”.
Personally, I believe in and want a open messaging standard that gives me complete freedom to use any platform and any client to send messages to anyone else that comes with the feature set we have come to know and love from the current crop of messaging clients. Some players in this space have a vested interest in not opening up their platforms to keep their users locked in to proprietary OS-specific messaging platforms. Without true industry-wide support, I fear this will become yet another niche product in the ever more propriety messaging space.
While Google’s commitment to provide an RCS client for Android should help that movement immensely, without industry-wide support I fear it’ll just become “yet another standard” with fragmented support stunting its adoption and spread.
Would a truly interoperable SMS lead you to switch away from your messenger platform of choice? Tell us know what this alliance has to do to get you on their messaging platform.