Sprint is working its way toward building an all-IP messaging portal alongside voice-over LTE (VoLTE), and it sees offering rich communication services (RCS) as the first step in that direction.
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) hasn't announced exactly when it will deploy VoLTE, but Wayne Ward, the carrier's vice president of business and product development, describes the carrier's partnership with Jibe Mobile to offer a white labeled over-the-top (OTT) messaging and video app as phase one in its move to an all-IP messaging portal. What the next couple of phases entail isn't exactly clear either, but the end goal is a VoLTE service that includes voice and data on a single platform. (See Sprint Jibes With OTT Comms.) Wayne told us:
As we roll out LTE and VoLTE becomes the platform underneath IP messaging, this will be the same basic experience we'll need for an IP core for VoLTE. It's an over-the-top, cloud-based client on the phone, not pure IP messaging, but the user experience and attributes will be similar to it. This is step one and complementary and feeding into our VoLTE strategy.
Sprint plans to "bootstrap" the Jibe app, rebranded Messaging Plus, on future devices beginning in the fourth quarter. Right now Wayne says it's only a marketing and distribution partnership, but he didn't rule out offering quality of service for the app in the future. Sprint's aim is just to get it in customer hands, find out what works, and add services as they go.
That includes not just adding services to the Jibe tie-up but potentially adding new OTT options as well. If the right provider and the right deal came along, Sprint might even be open to acquiring an innovative OTT app, Wayne says, but not without adding that it's had its hands full with network-related acquisitions of late. (See Sprint Axes More Clearwire Employees and Softbank Closes on Sprint Acquisition.)
Sprint is also mulling building its own internal RCS-style apps, and it's still supporting its Google Voice partnership, which lets its customers use their mobile phone numbers as their Google Voice digits. (See CTIA 2011: Sprint's Google Voice Gamble.)
"Right now, we're committed to Jibe for our phase one RCS deployment," Wayne says. "We'll make decisions around the roadmap we deploy for our IMS and IP messaging core -- if we continue to use a partner like Jibe or internalize apps, a roadmap is still under development for the future."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading