Will RCS From Google Take Your SMS And MMS To The Next Level?

Google is infusing features and building it to function across operator platforms.

With chat messengers like Whatsapp, Messenger, Hike, WeChat, BBM and more, we’ve all gotten very used to the idea of instant messaging. Whenever we need to send someone a message, most of us use a messenger service instead of the good old telecom operator driven SMS or MMS.

There were days, however, not too long ago, that SMS and MMS were the backbone of communication but lack of development in their capability to accommodate the growing user needs seem to have led to their decline.

Google, through RCS, is trying to revive them by infusing features and building on cross-operator capabilities.

Google, has been working on an initiative it likes to call Rich Communications Services (RCS) and plans to bring out a new messaging service that will be used solely across Android devices (for now) to revolutionise how Android users communicate while unifying telecom operators on the platform. The RCS seems to be a product of Google’s acquisition of the messaging service “Jibe” in September last year.

To propel this initiative, the tech giant has been working aggressively on bringing in the support and technology from different companies, either by partnerships or by acquisition.

Recently, Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. amongst a myriad of mobile operators; Airtel Africa, América Móvil, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, G KPN, Millicom, MTN, Orange, PLAY, Sprint, Telenor Group, Telstra, TIM, the GSM Association, VimpelCom and Vodafone along with the wireless standards body GSMA have partnered with Google to bring RCS to the Android users.

How will the new messaging service by RCS work is one curious question.

The messaging service is reportedly said to have a lot of features, including but not limited to group chat, high resolution photo sharing and have the ability to handle larger data packages. None of this is revolutionary in its sole existence, however what makes the RCS service important and special is that it would not work like an average app. It’d actually be aiming at bringing together all the various elements users enjoy from different apps and would enable them via an SMS or MMS service, via your telecom operator!

Thing is, through RCS, Google wants to resurrect the flagging cross-operator communications and infuse features offered by the third party “over the top” (OTT) internet messaging services like video and file sharing, group messaging, IP voice calls in addition to the security and privacy of messages.

RCS could offer operators a way back into the erstwhile lucrative messaging space, with the opportunity to earn from it again.

Yes, the operators do earn from the data usage while you access the messaging services via data packs, but it is far lesser than what they earned when we all used SMS’ or MMS’ as our communication vehicles.

The global decline can be seen in operator revenue decline and WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, LINE, Viber and other over-the-top (OTT) messaging services laughing their way to the banks with a growth from almost 31 trillion in 2014, to a projected 100 trillion by 2019 globally.

WhatsApp is routing about 30 billion messages daily, WeChat in China has more than 200 million users, while India has seen a decline of more than 18% in SMS usage as stated by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

This amounts to a ballpark figure of $1.5 billion revenues lost for the operators, and to make matter worse, due to a competitively crowded market, the cost of voice calls is projected to drop by 2% (Source: Accenture), in the coming year.

The OTT market remains smaller in the developing nations, however with data connectivity, the user will opt for enjoying messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others to save on their costs.

From the perspective of the OTTs, they have not yet been successful in monetizing their services, however are capturing the user base with the diverse services provided at a fraction of the cost. OTT players are now further diversifying into the financial transactions; Facebook’s use of Messenger to send payments, Snapchat’s Snapcash and LINE Pay, to site a few.

The messaging revolution we are talking about obviously has its pros, but it shall also have it cons, and one of the biggest of those could perhaps be a compromise of security and user privacy.
 Instant Messaging applications, such as Facebook’s WhatsApp as well as Messenger, and Apple’s iMessage, that would be the primary rivals of the said RCS messaging service, have closed security settings and keep the user’s privacy at the top of their service offering. In fact most of them have end-to-end encryption incubated into their platforms already.

The RCS messaging service however, would be operating with telecom service providers, which translates into the possibility that it might not be as secure on user privacy, as most telecom providers are at highly regulated, if not entirely run, by local governments and the content shared on such a platform could be of easy access to the prying eyes of the government, and could arguably be used for surveillance without the user’s knowledge.

To be clear, Google would not be responsible for the RCS security system, the telecom carriers would be.

RCS continues to experience organic growth around the world, with 47 operators in 34 countries having launched services to date. However, this initiative will greatly simplify and accelerate adoption of the technology, and points to the future of how mobile users will communicate with one another. This is an incredibly positive development for the industry”, GSMA Chief Technology Officer, Alex Sinclair reportedly told Philstar.com.

While a Google-led, operator driven, messaging service does sound quite interesting, and could perhaps make the messaging world much simpler by ridding Android users of having to use various instant messaging applications (a successful endeavour in iMessage by Apple), it might also make their world more complex in other ways.

The only way to see how it does is to wait for it to get out there for users to review over time.


Originally published at Chip-Monks.