Rich Communications Services and the Promise of More Revenue

By Doug Mohney September 20, 2012

MetroPCS came out strongly for Rich Communications Services (RCS) over HD voice when it rolled out its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service earlier this year. Company officials admitted it would take some education to inform people about the benefits of RCS.   So what good is it, anyway?

A number of companies started plugging the Rich Communications Suite and Rich Communications Services about five to six years ago. Service providers Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, TeliaSonera joined with Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung to establish implementation guidelines interoperable rich communications services built around IMS standards. RCS would offer an "Enhanced Phonebook," enhanced messaging, and "Enriched Call" to enabled multimedia content to be shared during a voice call. 

Image via Shutterstock

Today RCS-e (Rich Communications Suite-enhanced) is getting the lion's share of the attention, being promoted and managed to consumers by the GSMA under the trademark of "joyn." RCS-e is supposed to be "just there" and "just works" on a device, giving users easy access to enriched services over and above simple chat, file sharing or video transfer.   If you're communicating with someone else -- voice, text, voice -- you should be able to simply tap on an option to do joyn services, assuming they are also joyn-enabled on their phone.

Everything starts at an enhanced address book, either on a smartphone or PC. Chat and presence are automatically integrated into the address book, so if you want to contact someone you can see where they are and if they are available. Once you're connected via a communications session -- voice, chat, video -- you should be able to share multimedia (pictures, files, video) live simultaneously.   There's also standardized group chat and seamless video conferencing.

The best example of an "RCS-like" application is Metaswitch Network's Thrutu mobile phone app. It enables two-way sharing of phone, presence and URL-style information between callers using the non-RCS app while on a phone call, along with different "button" add-in functions to do such things as have a "meet me" function working from current locations of both parties. Since Metaswitch recently bought an RCS company, you can expect it to take the things it has learned from Thrutu and apply them into RCS and/or make Thrutu RCS-compliant.

GSMA says that trials and pilots of RCS and RCS-like have lead to more data and more traffic, so the technology can lead to both an increase in ARPU (average revenue per user) and customer loyalty (i.e., less churn).   With data as the new "minutes,” RCS could lead to more money for carriers in an era of declining ARPU due to unlimited voice and SMS messaging plans for service providers with monthly data caps. 

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Editor

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