In recent years the mobile industry has been consumed with searching for a business case for Rich Communication Suite (RCS), but things are starting to shift and events have occurred which will encourage operators to look at RCS again.
Firstly, China Mobile (the world’s largest carrier by subscribers) has revealed that it will trial the technology and, secondly, Facebook acquired WhatsApp. China Mobile delivering IP messaging, voice and video services to so many subscribers goes a long way to disproving RCS doubters. Moreover, Facebook’s move makes the OTT messaging space even more ubiquitous in terms of the new communities it can now enable.
Fundamentally, RCS can help operators to re-engage users and work towards the expectations of messaging capability and usage that services like WhatsApp have created. However, this is a narrow view of RCS capabilities, which fails to consider the wider scope of mobile services, and how RCS is evolving to comprise next generation offerings.
Less competition, more cooperation
RCS is a technology that underlines the development of messaging, voice and video capabilities from a circuit switched network environment to an all-IP one. One of the key aims of RCS is ensuring interoperability between legacy and next generation devices and services. However, despite initiatives to drive RCS in the market (such as the GSMA’s ‘Joyn’), a financially constrictive market has made it challenging for operators to make the necessary investment in IMS-based RCS.
When RCS launched, the conversation was very much around how operators could compete effectively against OTT players. It was ‘them against us’. Thankfully this conversation has now evolved. Many now get the fact that the communication services which operators provide, must be fitted to encompass the richer feature set that OTT apps deliver. This is positive and I feel the RCS debate around operators competing against OTTs completely misses the point.
In my view, there is no business case for RCS. Forget business cases, mobile operators are increasingly going to deliver IP-based communication services. Meanwhile, OTTs will continue to deliver voice, video and messaging services. Carriers are actively deploying IMS infrastructure to support VoLTE and manage mobile network costs. The services delivered through that IMS equipment happen to be called RCS.
RCS – an inevitable evolution
RCS is an operator’s ticket to remaining relevant in a messaging market that is being increasingly encroached on by OTT players. Operators are able to offer OTT like features such as presence and location information capabilities, and functionality. But these services are going to run alongside OTT messaging, voice and video apps – not against. This will then deliver subscribers greater choice and flexibility in the way they communicate.
RCS is not going to happen because of business cases or a competitive response to OTT services. RCS is going to happen because it is a technological evolution of messaging and voice, with new video services, in an IP world, that delivers a much richer user experience.
Alex Duncan, CEO
30th June 2014