RCS is not dead – because the GSMA says so!

Written by on June 30, 2016 in Opinion with 2 Comments

Electronic devicesWe used to laugh at Rich Communication Services (RCS). We still do. We still will. The reason is that it was built by committee while messaging apps were being launched that were quick, easy and sexy. RCS wasn’t even at the technical trial stage before WhatsApp was marching into the territory of hundreds of millions of active users and Messenger was fast becoming the default platform.

Yet, according to a new report from the GSMA, it ain’t over yet. An online survey of over 4,000 people across several countries, including China, Spain and the US points emphatically to customers now wanting the richness of the communications service.

Ironically, part of the appeal is voice. Customers, now rather entranced by being able to chat and send pictures of where they are and who with, want to be able to talk as well, they want to be able to show that the call is important before the call starts, and show the subject of the call. We find this baffling, but they also want to be able to share high-res pictures while immersed in the call/chat/session.

Setting aside the normal cynical reactions to a report by the GSMA saying that their 10 year messaging baby is going to be terribly popular, they just may have a point.

Of course, they would say that the comeback is here, but RCS would be native to the phone/device. You wouldn’t have to download an app. And, with a native set of features, it becomes a much broader proposition. WhatsApp, Instagram and [insert name of other Facebook messaging platform] will look quite closed in comparison.

It is also the case that, particularly among younger people, you have to have WhatsApp and Messenger and Instagram and Snapchat and Line and Telegram and [insert name of other messaging platform].


Because you will have different circles of friends and each circle of friends will use a different one. So, to keep up, you must download a series of apps and use each according to the circle you are trying to keep up with.

Whether it really works will not depend on how many features they have packed into it. And knowing operators and operator committees this thing will be bursting with features. It will depend on ease of use and cool appeal. Established operators are not cool with young people.

It will also depend on operators pricing the service to cater for young people. They need to charge them the same price as they did before, but since young people ‘so, like’ don’t need ‘voice’ minutes, they need to balance that and give them this service for ‘free’.

So, if RCS, or whatever rather more relevant name operators come up with is rather like a Webex that works, then, perhaps it will appeal, maybe it will even be cool. Maybe it will achieve the 10 percent savings that the report extrapolates.

And maybe, just maybe, the GSMA will be right.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Roger Grice says:

    Hi Alex. Great article, once again. The ubiquity of SMS was the reason for it’s success. Crazy that it was never intended to be a commercial tool for the carriers. The challenge for carriers is to achieve the same ubiquity with RCS and to achieve seamless backward compatibility with SMS/MMS. OTT services cannot run free forever. It may be the carriers have the strongest long-term commercial position to offer “free” messaging using RCS as part of a wider bundled offer. A billing system, and the ability to bundle products and services is something the OTT alternatives don’t have access to.

    • Alex Leslie says:

      Thank you Roger. You are absolutely right and it may be that those OTT/Digital service providers/players realise that their advantage is pretty thin. Thus they are marching to create complete digital ecosystems. An interest few months ahead – for many reasons!

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