The Text: Not Just for Messaging Anymore

Posted by Josh Wigginton, VP of Product Management on 12/7/17 1:38 PM

Mobile devices continue to rapidly increase in number and accessibility. Almost half a billion (429 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2016 alone1. They’ve become ingrained into our lives, from helping us keep track of our contacts and updating our meeting and activity calendar, to snapping complex panoramic or burst photographs, to serving as the vehicle for a complex multimedia presentation streamed around the world. 



Our mobile phones are no longer used simply for calls, texts, or browsing the web on-the-go. They, along with other smart devices are used to enrich just about every aspect of our lives. Wireless technology is ever-changing, and mobile operators are in a constant battle to keep up with growing consumer demand trends, preferences and even fads..

The Text Message: A Brief History

The initial development of SMS (Short Message Service), struggled initially to gain widespread adoption due to its lack of ubiquitous coverage and the lack of devices that could support sending messages. The first text message (SMS), which read “Merry Christmas”, celebrates 25 years this week. And although more than 22 billion texts are still sent each day worldwide, the emergence of Internet Protocol-based (IP) technologies and the app revolution have enticed users to download messaging apps that function Over-The-Top (OTT) of operator networks. These OTT messaging services use proprietary code to provide users with more feature-rich ways to communicate via their mobile devices, add in the rise of social media in all its flavors, it's possible for personal contact lists to contain hundreds of contacts. But as our connections grow, so does the complexity of connecting. With some requiring one platform to connect, and others requiring another platform to send messages, but no simple way to keep them or their user experience unified. This is because these OTT applications are not built on the universal standards that network operators use in development. So creating a standardized way to allow users to speak to each other ubiquitously in a more content-rich way has become imperative.

The Quest for Standardization and Ubiquity

Through the GSMA’s (Global System for Mobile Association) Universal Profile (UP) initiative, the entire mobile ecosystem will have a standardized, network operator quality messaging platform. The UP initiative for RCS (Rich Communications Services) is a globally agreed upon specification that when implemented, guarantees interoperability between carriers and their messaging services. The initiative aims to provide the mobile industry with an enriched feature set and configuration to make it easier for users to enjoy the enriched feature set available with RCS.

In time, RCS will become universally available to users around the world just as SMS is today. Currently the UP is supported by 60 operators and more than 137 million users globally, and analysts predict that RCS users will increase to 350 million by 20182.

Adding to the power of this standardization, many new use cases are emerging from big brands like Best Buy, Walgreens and Subway (only to name a few) that demonstrate their desire to use this new technology to transform how they communicate with consumers. The adoption of a larger, messaging-based ecosystems will enable operators to develop additional features and services that will continue to enrich the lives of their subscribers beyond person-to-person (P2P) communication.

The Rich Message: Coming to a Phone Near You

1. No App Needed

Because RCS comes with universal specifications supported by the device manufacturers, users won't need to download additional apps to use RCS, it will be the native messaging experience on the device. Much like SMS today allows sharing of texts across platforms, RCS will allow users to benefit from the full range of multimedia and contact access offered by OTT apps, only built-in.

2. Features You Want

RCS allows users to do more than just text. They can instant message, start, join and leave group chats, and make audio and video calls from within the message. Users will also able to communicate with people across networks and across the world simply by storing their mobile number in the native contact list. Additional features will allow users to tell their contacts where they are with location sharing and what they are up to, with streaming video. In essence, RCS brings all of the latest communications technologies behind one button.

3. More Things to Share

In addition to its other benefits, RCS allows users to add ingredients to their conversations with pictures, videos, attachments and audio files—easily attaching multimedia elements to their messages. RCS creates a richer, more multimedia-friendly content environment for everyone.

Rich Communications Services is already available in 27 countries3, and users are well on their way to expecting this technology from their mobile provider as the natural evolution of the text message from 25 years ago. As such, operators will soon realize that they need this and other new technologies to stay ahead of their market and there is so much operators can do today to transform their offerings to give customers a better mobile experience. For information on RCS and how to best leverage the latest next-generation technologies, contact us today.

  • [1] Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2016–2021 White Paper

Topics: RCS, Rich Communication Services, Text Messaging, OTT messaging, over-the-top (OTT), next generation communication, Rich Messaging, texting, Next Generation Messaging