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Google Acquires Jibe to Bring RCS to Android

Sarah Thomas
9/30/2015
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Google has acquired Jibe Mobile, the company that powers rich communications service (RCS) for Deutsche Telecom, Sprint and other global wireless operators.

Terms of the deal, announced Wednesday afternoon at the bottom of a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) blog post, were not released. RCS is the GSM Association (GSMA) -backed technology for advanced messaging services built on an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) backbone, including video calling, presence, photo sharing and enhanced messaging.

Jibe Mobile has been powering these type of RCS services -- primarily native WhatsApp-style messaging at this stage -- for wireless operators since 2010 and has raised $9.1 million in funding since its founding in 2006. Google notes in its blog that Jibe will continuing working with its carrier partners after it is part of the Android maker.

Jibe powers RCS for 26 operators, including Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) via an RCS-powered app, and it recently launched the Jibe Hub to build interoperability across operators' disparate RCS messaging services. (See DT Backs Jibe's Cross-Carrier RCS.)

Interest in the IMS-based technology has come in fits and starts in the face of over-the-top competition with the most traction building in Europe. The US is expected to see a resurgence in interest in enhancing its text and video communications through RCS, however, now that voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) is becoming more widely deployed, and T-Mobile US Inc. has fired the opening salvo with its launch of native RCS services. (See T-Mobile Launches RCS Messaging, Deutsche Telekom Outlines Its RCS Evolution and Sprint Jibes With OTT Comms.)


For more on RCS, head over to the VoLTE/rich communications content page on Light Reading.


Google's interest in Jibe and RCS centers on improving the messaging experience on Android-powered devices, something Mike Dodd, Android RCS software engineer and "minister of messaging," says will take time and collaboration throughout the wireless industry.

"Many leaders in the wireless industry have already put great work into laying the foundation for RCS, and we've heard from many of them that there are ways Android can help," Dodd writes. "We're excited to team up with mobile operators, device makers and the rest of the Android ecosystem to support RCS standards and help accelerate their deployment in a more consistent way."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/1/2015 | 6:39:46 AM
Re: Not about telco RCS - it's Google version of iMessage
Thanks Dean. I agree with parts of your blog, but not all of it.

If you look at how Jibe Cloud was pitched it is pretty clear that the operator's role is to provide termination and origination -- rather than the value-add services* -- so in that sense it's a variation on the pipe model.  Pretty much all the operators I've dicussed this with see it that way. Some of them, especially in mid-sized and smaller markets, also don't see much alternative because VAS providers need to access users on mutiple different carriers within a market to get reasonable scale.

So your comment "the amount likely to touch the telcos' IMS's will likely be minimal" is intereresting if you think of this as IMS Application Servers, rather than the signalling, media, etc., used to set-up and manage sessions.

* do anyone still use that term?
Dean Bubley
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Dean Bubley,
User Rank: Light Beer
10/1/2015 | 5:20:21 AM
Not about telco RCS - it's Google version of iMessage
As a longstanding critic of RCS, I've got some fairly trenchant thoughts on this as you might expect. It's the zombie technology of the industry - dead but still shambling around, eating peoples' brains.

However, there's a chance that Google has worked out how to monetise grave-robbing - by turning RCS into Android's equivalent of Apple iMessage. It's not about telcos "winning back vs. OTTs" - it's about free basic messaging to, from and between Androids I suspect. It's not going to change usage of apps like Instagram or SnapChat or WeChat, or even WhatsApp. The use-cases are different.

It's not Google *supporting* RCS. It's Google stealing RCS, for its own purposes.

The telcos are a sideshow here - this is about competition with Apple (& also maybe Microsoft and Twilio).

My full analysis: http://disruptivewireless.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/google-buying-jibe-mobile-is-aimed-at.html
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/1/2015 | 4:32:06 AM
Re: Jibe & Google
Good blog -- I agree with quite a bit of your analysis. Assuming this is succesful (still far the case, btw), your point about GOOG inserting itself in the middle of the telco messaging is a good one. I'd say that's part threat, part opportunity, for carriers.

 

 
Tsahi Levent-Levi
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Tsahi Levent-Levi,
User Rank: Lightning
10/1/2015 | 3:29:13 AM
Re: Jibe & Google
I agree with you to some extent.

Google's efforts into messaging weren't succeeding to get the masses it needed, but if you look at RCS - if Google pulls this one off, it can become the biggest messaging player practically "overnight" :-)

 

Here's my take of it - https://bloggeek.me/android-rcs/
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/1/2015 | 3:16:58 AM
Jibe & Google
Interesting move by Google.

I had a couple of Jibe charts in the deck I used for operator VoLTE briefings last year. One of the things I liked about the model is that the Jibe Cloud can act as an aggregator that would enable third-parties to reach subscribers on multiple carriers in a market (and actually across markets).

If Google extends RCS support to Android "natively" that would be a major boost for RCS. One of the reasons it hasn't been successful is lack of device suport. Some OEMs tried to build it on top of Android, but never with much success. Worth keeping an eye on this.

My first take is that Google has made this deal because it's own efforts in messaging haven't really worked out. The messaging experience out-of-the-box on Android is terrible. 

 
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