Fighting the death of SMS at WhatsApp’s hands

Earlier this year, Google launched “Chat,” a plan to introduce Rich Communication Services (RCS) into the default SMS client in Android.

RCS introduces several improvements over traditional SMS, and is currently integrated into Android Messages.

To speed up the rate at which operators were adopting RCS, Google acquired a company called Jibe Mobile in 2015. It also got mobile operators like Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone to adopt RCS.

Among the features RCS introduces is the sending of high quality photos, group conversations, read receipts, and an indicator showing when someone is typing.

In November 2016, Google also launched a new universal profile for RCS with Sprint in the United States.

It went on to offer an online service called Jibe RCS Cloud, an implementation of the RCS Universal Profile which lets operators quickly implement the technology and scale it.

The Jibe Hub provides mobile operators with a connection to the global RCS network. It is interoperable with third-party RCS networks, according to Google, promising that one connection delivers worldwide interconnection.

9to5Google recently reported that 50 mobile network operators in 33 countries have launched RCS, and that the GSM Association forecasts that 40 new operators in 30 countries will implement the technology in the next year.

Rich Communication Services in SA

In South Africa, however, MTN and Telkom said they do not have immediate plans to support the technology.

“MTN has been in discussions with Google on the requirements to enable RCS messaging in South Africa, and have technically assessed the effort required when implementing it,” said the head of corporate affairs at MTN, Jacqui O’Sullivan.

“When launching such services, it is important to take into consideration various aspects such as network support, product proposition, and smart devices with the [new] Android Messages application installed.”

Telkom said it can support the service, but would require additional hardware to do so.

“Over time as mobile networks evolve, old services such as SMS which are not network resource efficient will be phased out,” said Telkom.

“Other factors, such as consumer advocacy and the regulator’s push to lower the cost of communication, will result in cheaper and more efficient services such as RCS.”

Telkom said the main issue with RCS is interoperability between carriers. “Once this issue is addressed, it is expected to take off and Telkom will support it on its network,” said Telkom.

Vodacom and Cell C did not provide comment by the time of publication.

Now read: This graph shows how WhatsApp is killing SMS in South Africa

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Fighting the death of SMS at WhatsApp’s hands