Rich Communications Service (RCS) has replaced Short Message Service (SMS) in countries like the United States, but South African mobile networks do not see the same happening in South Africa any time soon.
RCS messaging consists of a range of standards that are designed to replace traditional SMS and MMS on Android devices.
Improvements over the SMS technology include support for group chats, video chats, calls, and the sending of high-quality images.
Users can also send read receipts and see when someone is typing – all features that users have come to expect from messaging apps.
RCS is currently only available in a few countries, but Google hopes that it will eventually replace SMS globally on Android devices.
MyBroadband spoke with South African mobile networks about the possibility of replacing SMS with RCS in South Africa.
MTN said that when it comes to RCS, it is currently prioritising its own messaging platform over technologies like RCS.
“MTN’s focus is currently on expanding its Ayoba instant messaging and browsing platform as a way to reach not only MTN customers but a wider audience of users across Africa.”
Vodacom said it does not plan to replace SMS with RCS as it believes there is a place for both offerings to exist.
“Vodacom has operated an RCS enabled service for a few years already and will continue to support its evolution into a Universal Profile as more device manufacturers come on board,” said Vodacom.
Vodacom said that the costs associated with the platform are not a major barrier to RCS implementation.
“Interconnect between operators is relatively simple as all providers adopt the platform. User adoption is happening organically with device and mobile OS providers also adopting this platform,” it explained.
However, it said it is important to note that the use and uptake of RCS by consumers is affected by their vast choice of alternative messaging platforms.
Cell C said it does not plan to replace SMS with RCS but will offer its customers more communication platform options.
It said that it will make an announcement in due course about launch dates for these options.
Cell C said the biggest barrier to RCS implementation in South Africa is the availability of smartphones.
“There is still a significant number of customers that are on feature phones and those who are not using Android smartphone devices,” said Cell C.
“There is also the issue of cross-network adoption, as customers prefer services they can use across all networks.”
Telkom said it does not have any plans at this stage to replace SMS with RCS.
“While there has been a notable decline in person to person (P2P) SMS, there has been an increase in Application to Person (A2P) SMS,” said Telkom.
“The SMS life-cycle has been stretched due to increased demand from the banking sector and OTT vendors, which are largely in favour of using SMS as a default channel for two-Factor authentication; alerts and reminders.”
Telkom said that, if anything, it expects that RCS would replace MMS rather than SMS.
“MMS traffic has dropped significantly since the introduction of IM applications, and most traffic on the network, is A2P traffic (statements and invoices etc.),” it said.