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September 13, 2016

RCS: The Next Major Step for Mobile Operators Competing with OTT

Mobile first has really become the accurate descriptor for a growing number of today’s global population.  The computing power, connectivity and communications capabilities of our mobile devices make it so we don’t even need to slow down to use a desk, home phone, laptop or PC if we don’t want to.  Nearly everything we want to do in terms of communication, shopping, information gathering and such can be done on our mobile devices.

The ongoing challenge for mobile operators is how to leverage this mobile-first (in some cases it’s mobile-only) mentality to secure loyalty and revenue.  When OTT services, like WhatsApp, Skype and others are delivering features like multi-party conferencing, file and screen sharing, video calling and more, operators find themselves to not only compete, but to pry those users from their existing apps.

It’s great that we have so many apps that provide such fantastic real-time communications and collaboration features, but on the flip side, wouldn’t it be easier if they were all attached to our carrier’s service catalog, so we could use one app, much like we do with SMS already?  When you text someone, you don’t have to worry about which app your friend or colleague is using.  But, when you’re using OTT services, you have a different set of apps for different groups of friends and colleagues.  Wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one app – just like clicking for a voice call?

A huge part of making this a reality is being able to provide these services in a cross-carrier environment.  As has long been the debate regarding HD Voice, apps or features that are carrier-dependent will enjoy little adoption.  That’s what the RCS (Rich Communications Services) market has been driving toward, with a platform designed to enable communications experiences beyond standard voice or SMS, in a cross-carrier environment. 

The popularity of OTT services, along with the maturation of NFV (which can help operators more rapidly roll out and control new services) is why the RCS market has been seeing increased attention of late, including a major announcement from Google that it will be releasing an open source RCS client, along with developer APIs to help enhance the RCS experience further.

RCS, of course, is the platform that enables delivery of these and other services and is helping operators navigate the transition to an all-IP world.  The fact is, though, despite finding themselves in head-to-head competition against OTT providers, most operators have yet to develop and RCS plan.  In fact, according to the audience from a recent Webinar, the majority of attendees are still in a “wait and learn” mode.

But, as the competitive landscape matures, they can’t wait long – they must seek to rebuild the loyalty they have lost in favor of specialized applications and services that run across their networks. In other words, they’re up against the old challenge we’ve been discussing for many years at ITEXPO – how to avoid becoming a dumb pipe and, instead, turn the network into a profitable investment.

RCS is a step in that direction, and Jay Bhatt, RCS Product Director at Xura, spent time explaining why during a Webinar called, “Navigating the RCS Journey in the Google Age.”

Indeed, garnering Google’s support is a huge momentum boost, but operators still need to get off the fence and start planning and implementing their RCS migrations.  If you missed the live webinar yesterday, I encourage you to check out the on-demand-version at your convenience and hear what a company that has the majority of major operators globally among its customer base has to say about this next significant evolution of mobile operators.

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