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T-Mobile Launches RCS Messaging

Sarah Thomas
7/22/2015

T-Mobile will be the first tier-one US wireless operator to launch rich communications services (RCS) with Wednesday's announcement of Advanced Messaging, bringing WhatsApp-style messaging to compatible Android devices.

T-Mobile US Inc. said RCS was the next step for it back when it launched voice-over-LTE last year, and the carrier's vice president of engineering and quality assurance, Grant Castle, told Light Reading in March that an RCS launch was coming "very soon." He also mentioned at the time that video calling was on the roadmap, but today's announcement applies only to messaging. (See Q&A: The Castle in T-Mobile's LTE Network .)

Specifically, T-Mobile Advanced Messaging will include "near-real time chat" with indicators for when the other person is typing and when a message is received and read, much like WhatsApp or iMessage on the iPhone. It will also feature the ability to share high-res photos and videos of up to 10MB over text.

All these messaging services will work directly from the standard messaging interface. T-Mobile's Advanced Messaging will be built into the Samsung Corp. Galaxy Grand Prime, available as of today, and available via a software update on the Galaxy S5 and S6.

In a blog post announcing the launch, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said he expects it will eventually be a standard feature on all new phones sold, although Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) remains the biggest question mark. (See Samsung Dials Up RCS for VoLTE.)

"For now, this is something you can only get at T-Mobile -- though I expect our announcement will be a wake-up call for the old carriers to get moving with RCS, so customers can enjoy these next-gen services working across wireless providers," Ray wrote in the blog post.


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


Whether spurred by T-Mobile or not, it's a safe bet that the other big three US operators will follow suit within the next few months. Pardeep Kohli, the president and CEO of Mavenir Systems Inc. , which enables RCS for T-Mobile, said at Mobile World Congress that all four would be launching RCS this year. (See Mavenir, T-Mobile Confirm US RCS Launches .)

While some have workarounds, like Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s partnership with Jibe Mobile for an RCS compatible mobile app, none have launched full RCS that's native to the dialer. MetroPCS was actually the first to launch RCS in 2012, but T-Mobile acquired the carrier shortly thereafter. (See Sprint Jibes With OTT Comms and MetroPCS Puts Comms Startups on Notice.)

The technology has caught on in Europe somewhat, but has yet to take off here in the US. However, since all the major operators have IMS deployed to support their VoLTE rollouts, RCS looks like an inevitable next step -- which will be crucial to the services interoperating across carriers. (See Deutsche Telekom Outlines Its RCS Evolution and Jibe Hub, Fring Alliance & More RCS Action at MWC .)

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

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SkillCen56383
SkillCen56383
7/27/2015 | 9:58:39 AM
Re: Billing?
It means that mobile operators have another point for billing. Since RCS is build on top of existing VAS platforms, it's possible to charge for IPmessages like for legacy messaging (also for messages from/to RCS to/from legacy customers).

I wonder, if there are any public stats from Roger Canada regarding their implementation of RCS that is quite mature already?

 
palat
palat
7/23/2015 | 1:48:29 PM
Monetizing RCS
I think it is a mistake to view RCS as a separate suite of services that needs to be monetized from Day 1. The initial deployment lays the foundation for other services which can be layered in, in phases.

As a first step, the existing text messaging service can be transitioned to RCS in the backend in a seamless manner without the user noticing any change to their UI. As the next step, RCS features such as Group Chat etc can be introduced to the messaging service in phases. Later, using an RCS API Gateway, the RCS Client can connect to monetizable internet, enterprise and other third party IP Services.  
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
7/23/2015 | 1:27:33 PM
Re: Whats the USP???
WhatsApp is bigger in Asia and Europe. But Facebook Messenger and iMessage are big in the US. They all do the same kind of thing.
KBode
KBode
7/23/2015 | 11:09:40 AM
Re: Whats the USP???
Depends on implementation I would think. Any measure of clunkyness in the interface and these users will be quickly running toward the best app available.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
7/23/2015 | 10:40:09 AM
Re: Whats the USP???
Do you think they shouldn't have bothered deploying RCS? I don't see it as a game changer for the operators, but as a necessary evolution. My understanding is that, at least in the US, most people still use SMS, but use WhatsApp as a complementary service to fill in the holes of SMS (like in traveling abroad). Is it different in Europe?
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
7/23/2015 | 10:38:00 AM
Re: Whats the USP???
RCS is about 5 years to late. Things might have been different if the operators could have organized themselves to offer something similar to WhatsApp; alas hubris got the better of them.

Still, it's not all over. The current state of messaging is good, but not great.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
7/23/2015 | 10:08:17 AM
Re: Whats the USP???
I think the biggest selling point is just the fact that it's the path of least resistance. A lot of people just use WhatsApp as a workaround because they couldn't do group messaging or WiFi texting natively. Unless they are attached to that ecosystem, I see them using T-Mobile's service by default. I certainly don't expect it to be better, but it is at least a natural evolution of SMS.
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
7/23/2015 | 6:59:45 AM
Re: Whats the USP???
Group messaging across platforms (Android, iPhone, Windows, etc.) and across carriers is key. That's one reason we use WhatsApp a lot in our household.

 
SeniorMa76356
SeniorMa76356
7/23/2015 | 3:08:22 AM
Whats the USP???
Interesting....But will it compete against the likes of WhatsApp? If so, wht about features like group messaging etc?

And what is the USP of RCS over WhatsApp? why will users migrate to RCS?

 

Lot of doubts before other opreators start replicating. Answers to these questions will help.

 

Thanks,

Binit Agarwalla

India

+91 9848003328
Kruz
Kruz
7/23/2015 | 2:34:28 AM
Re: Billing?
It seems the service will not be charged to customers. But should this pickup, how fast can it keep up with the software lifecycle OTT IMs have?
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