Is the RCS story about to change, with a 5G boost from China?

RCS story 5G
Image credit | Unnknown

The RCS story is about to change, or so it seems. The much joked about Rich Communications Service devised by the GSMA some 10 years ago, got a much needed boost in the arm, as the ‘Big Three’ in China committed to its roll out. Rakuten, too, is using RCS.

A joint spokesman for China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom said it will be key to the success of 5G (and probably vice versa). They have gone as far as ‘mandating’ that all compatible handsets must support RCS.

It is very rare for something that has been pushed by an industry body – up a steep hill for a decade – to suddenly turn out to be successful. But that might about to change.

The RCS story is a classic. It proved, seemingly beyond doubt, that ‘innovation by committee’ simply does not work. While the GSMA members met three times a year to design the perfect messaging platform that would bring telecoms operators back into the value chain, other companies just upped and did it. Some operators implemented RCS, but without much fanfare.

Messaging platforms sprouted everywhere and most have now passed into everyday language. When we say we will ‘messenger’ someone, we know it is Facebook’s platform. In the same way, we WhatsApp each other and probably Zoom people too.

Very few thought that the RCS story would have a happy ending. Most forgot that RCS even existed and when we wrote about it, it was generally not to be polite about it.

All of this does not mean that RCS is about to become as part of the fabric as WhatsApp but when three behemoths say that is where they are going, that statement has a lot of influence.

RCS, mainly because it was overdesigned in the first place, just might be the platform that ‘makes’ 5G a consumer offering. Right now, we generally believe that telecoms companies will succeed in 5G with enterprise and Government offerings, enhancing and streamlining services that are out of date and costly.

The RCS story is indeed about rich communications capabilities. It can provide rich messaging, group chats and media sharing. If successful, RCS could well be the way into the arena currently dominated by digital service providers who do not have the burden of running networks.

“Together with ecosystem partners, we will start a new chapter in 5G messaging and further promote RCS applications in China,” the three Chinese operators said.

Interestingly, the trio did not put a firm date on the mandate on future smartphones and this means that they probably see RCS being key to the 5G consumer play. This is still some way off.

Suddenly, it seems, that RCS is back in the mix and as a result the RCS story may yet have a happy ending. That said, this is just about China and that does not necessarily mean that it will spread far and wide.

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