Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

Vodafone Germany is fighting back against over-the-top (OTT) rivals with the launch of Joyn-branded Rich Communication Suite (RCS) services.

The news comes ahead of the IFA consumer electronics tradeshow in Berlin next week and follows similar Joyn launches in Spain earlier this summer by Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and Vodafone España S.A. (See Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat .)

Joyn is the consumer brand for services based on the mobile operator-backed Rich Communications Suite enhanced (RCS-e) specifications, which is an initiative run by the GSM Association (GSMA) . The project aims to help mobile operators to offer instant messaging, chat, file sharing and video calls over any device on any network by making such advanced services as ubiquitous and interoperable as voice and SMS. And the underlying technology for RCS services is IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). (See Operators Joyn Forces for RCS Services.)

The project is considered by many to be network operators' retaliation against OTT services from third-party providers that ride on their networks. As such, then, Vodafone just started the fight back in Germany.

For now, Vodafone's Joyn app -- which includes instant messaging, file sharing, voice and video chat services -- is only available as a free download from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Play app store to use on devices running Android 2.2.

Joyn service usage will be included in all Vodafone flat-rate tariffs that include data and SMS.

Vodafone has launched its services ahead of its main telco rivals. Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) plans to launch the services in December, while Telefónica Deutschland GmbH plans to start Joyn services in early 2013, according to an operator spokesman.

When those two operators start to offer their Joyn services, they will all be interoperable with each other, according to a Vodafone spokesman.

Why this matters
As Europe's largest market, Germany is an important test bed for these RCS services. The launch also shows some momentum in Europe for the Joyn initiative.

As for Vodafone, it is the second European market where the operator has launched Joyn-branded services, so it will have experience from two distinct markets to develop its RCS strategy.

According to Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown, "The practical experience gained [in Germany] related to interoperability, interconnect, device support, marketing, and so on, will be invaluable as these operators offer Joyn in new markets and share best-practice with the rest of the industry."

He added: "Consumer uptake is hard to predict. But success in Germany will incentivize the ecosystem and will spur the launch of Joyn services elsewhere in Europe."

On the other hand, the opposite might play out: That is, if Joyn services flop in Germany and Spain, then operators will need to rethink how they will use their IMS assets to create new multimedia services.

And the true test of these services with consumers in Germany will come when all three of the major operators have commercial offers, as planned.

For more

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:22:37 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

RCS services and voice over LTE too, for 4G voice services, all need an IMS core. Are most operators ready to commit to IMS investments to make these new services possible? 

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:22:35 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

Ha, just yesterday I got a pitch on the death of RCS. It's dying before it's even started?! Might not be such a crazy statement though. OTT apps seem so much simpler.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:22:35 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

And another thing... when you look at messaging apps like WhatsApp, it seems so simple compared to operator efforts like RCS/Joyn -- which create essentially the same kinds of services. Do telco efforts always have to be so slow, costly and laborious?

Telefonica, for one, is showing that it can act in a very un-telco way with its Digital business unit and its new Tu Me service:

Telefonica: A New Breed of Telco



MPlank 12/5/2012 | 5:22:33 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

I'm not aware of any operators that have rolled out IMS-less RCS in a production environment but I believe there have been a few trials. In fact, the company in the previous link recently announced a program that allows operators to use their hosted RCS platform for 30 days to test RCS functionality. http://goo.gl/wjyVJ

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:22:33 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

That's interesting and thanks for the link.  Are there examples of operators that are now offering RCS services without the IMS core network in place?


MPlank 12/5/2012 | 5:22:33 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

Actually, there are a fair number of vendors that provide RCS compliant (Not "RCS like") soultions that do not require an IMS core, e.g. http://goo.gl/aDFxy. With these solutions, operators have the ability to offer RCS services to their subscribers immediately with the option to migrate to IMS in the future.

bseligmann 12/5/2012 | 5:22:32 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

I'm sure that TuMe is an RCS based service...

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:22:23 PM
re: Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat

TuMe is not an RCS service.... the folks at Telefonica Digital noted recently that the TuMe development was running parallel to its RCS work.

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