Rich Communications Services (RCS) is a controversial topic in net purists’ circles and the discussion just got hotter: Google has purchased Jibe Mobile. As is typical when a big company devours little fish, financial terms were not disclosed at time of the announcement.
The Android Official Blog, which claims to be "committing to RCS, the latest standard in carrier messaging," says the acquisition is to help Google bring RCS to a global audience. With customers including Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Vodafone, SFR and KPN, Jibe and its cloud-based approach to RCS arguably makes it the leader in both RCS technology and deployment.
"Deploying RCS to create an even better messaging experience on Android will take time and collaboration throughout the wireless industry, but we’re excited to get started," wrote Mike Dodd, Android RCS Software Engineer and Minister of Messaging. SMS text messaging hasn't "kept up" with modern messaging apps. The Google Android team is "already working closely" with many of its partners to implement RCS, so buying Jibe isn't an out-of-the-blue purchase.
Started by the GSMA as an enhancement to existing mobile services and a counter to over-the-top (OTT) services decimating SMS text messaging services, RCS was kicked off in 2007 and went through a number of standards iterations. The suite of standardized RCS services includes standard messaging, one-to-one and multiperson chat, file and content sharing, presence information, voice, and video calling.
It has taken a while for RCS to gain momentum under the GSMA joyn brand overseas. Sprint deployed RCS using the Jibe Mobile Message+ solution, while T-Mobile launched RCS as "Advanced Messaging" and later added seamless video calling to the mix. There are hints that Verizon might also have deployed RCS-compatible services with its LTE-based videocalling solution.
Ultimately, carriers will be able to seamlessly exchange RCS sessions between users across network boundaries, with both T-Mobile and Verizon alluding to the possibility in their respective service rollouts. RCS represents a carrier-based standardized approach and deployment for messaging, voice, video, and data sharing based around the use of the phone number.
To net purists, where phone companies can do no right, RCS is a "too complex, too late" solution to compete against over the top services already in use by Facebook, Microsoft Skype, and numerous other OTT services worldwide. Carriers have been slow to introduce and deploy RCS, adding to the perception that RCS is stuck in first gear.
Earlier this year, GENBAND proposed the fring Alliance for carriers, encouraging the use of the fring OTT solution as a quickly implemented near-term solution for carriers with the benefits of using fring as a way to federate users from different carriers together to generate a critical mass of people that can seamlessly communicate with each other.
RCS's greatest advantages may be in embracing the phone number as the unique identifier for people and the fact that builds on the deployments of LTE around the world. Many people don't want to download and juggle multiple apps to simply send a text message or share a file; they want a seamless experience that just works. The deployments of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) have led to the rollout of IMS components on the back-end that support RCS services. As carriers continue to roll out VoLTE, they continue to roll out core pieces for expanded RCS deployments.
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