Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and Vodafone España S.A. launched on Monday the first Joyn-branded services based on the operator-backed Rich Communication Suite enhanced (RCS-e) initiative in a move to compete with offers from over-the-top (OTT) providers. (See Telefónica Launches Joyn RCS Services.)

But it wasn't easy.

[Ed note: Does this mean, if you can't beat them, Joyn them?]

Joyn is the consumer brand for services based on the RCS-e set of specifications, which is an industry initiative managed by the GSM Association (GSMA) . The RCS-e project aims to define service specifications for mobile operators to deliver instant messaging, chat, file sharing and video calls over any device on any network.

The underlying technology for RCS services is an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) core network, and the goal is to make these advanced services as universal as voice and SMS are today. (See Operators Joyn Forces for RCS Services and Spain Gives RCS Camp Some Hope.)

In Spain, the first services available as of this week are chat (group and one-to-one), file sharing (including photos, music and videos) and a feature that allows videos or photos to be shared in real time during a voice call (thereby making it a so-called "enriched call.")

For now, the service is available only to customers with devices running Android version 2.2 or above. The services are accessed by downloading the Joyn application from the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Play app store. There is no charge for the app and the resulting data usage is not counted against a customer's monthly allowance.

The next big step will be in August when new Android smartphones are expected to have the Joyn service included natively on the device, which is an important step towards making such services available to more users.

The Joyn services are expected to be available on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iOS devices from Spain's third-largest mobile operator Orange Spain in the coming weeks.

Late to Joyn?
A beta version of these RCS services was originally planned to start by the end of 2011 in Spain, but it was too hard to meet that target, according to Javier Arenzana, director of Rich Communications Services at Telefónica Digital. (See Spain Gives RCS Camp Some Hope.)

"It was more complex than expected to set up the first network and first client ever … at the same time," he said.

"Anything that has to do with standards and operators does take time," he added.

Late or not, RCS services are considered by some to be important tools operators need to respond to a new breed of voice and messaging services being developed by OTT players, such as WhatsApp.

According to Arenzana, when it comes to advanced services the question for operators is: How can they come into that space and find a way to differentiate themselves and leverage what they have?

For him, RCS provides the answer.

"What we have is the capability to provide universal communication and the most simple way to use it, because it will be integrated into the device," he said. "Like SMS, that's how simple we can make it."

But for Arenzana, RCS is not just about competing with OTT providers, rather it enables the creation of new multimedia services as operators migrate to IP and IMS-based networks with the rollout of next-generation mobile broadband such as LTE.

"We need to go through this process -- we need to evolve our networks to IP. With RCS, we're accelerating the pace at which we are migrating to IP and IMS-based communications," he said. "Yes, you need to deploy another core network [e.g., IMS], but that is already on your roadmap … it's just a matter of timing."

But Telefónica isn't making a big noise about its new Joyn service in Spain just yet. Arenzana described the level of marketing communication as "low" initially, and that's because the operator sees the real value in the service when it is available natively on mobile devices later this year.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Anne Morris 12/5/2012 | 5:30:27 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Telefonica also generally seems to be keeping its options open, as indicated by the TU Me app, and it seems to be planning to do more TU branded stuff..

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:27 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Good point. I think Telefonica is smart to be keeping those options open and doing the development for those new services outside traditional business and in the new Digital unit.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:27 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

The Joyn launch is an important first step for the RCS-e project. The service is live, but because it's offered for free and only as a downloadable app and doesn't have a big marketing push behind it, it sort of has a beta feel to it. Also, looking in Google Play for Joyn, Vodafone's service shows up as  "Joyn by Vodafone (beta)."

But it's a start. 

mp2010 12/5/2012 | 5:30:26 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

How are the spanish operators charging for Joyn services? Are they offering a "Joyn" package or are they pricing each service individually?

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:25 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

For now, the services are free and any data used doesn't count against a user's monthly cap. Telefonica didn't share its plans for pricing for the Joyn services.

Kevin Mitchell 12/5/2012 | 5:30:24 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Beta is good! Get the service out there and improve it - that is what OTT does, so to compete, play more like them. And yes, Telefonica is placing multiple bets with TU me, also not a bad approach: IMS with RCS and OTT SIP multimedia with Tu me (see Dean Bubley on TelcoOTT).

As it is app based vs native to the handset, this RCS service is not meeting the total promise yet. Once part of the address book, RCS is more compelling as its easy to use and "it's just there"

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:23 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Thanks, I didn't think of it like that -- beta IS good. It can be improved as they go, based on the feedback they get, as opposed to trying to make a service perfect before it's launched.

Eryk 12/5/2012 | 5:22:07 PM
re: Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat

Where joyn was launched already?
Based my information pilot of joyn was launched in Vodafone Spain and Telefonica Spain as well as in T-Mobile Poland.
More information about joyn:

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