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RCS promises new opportunities ? and more complexity ? for mobile messaging

The mobile messaging landscape continues to add more options, with Google?s acquisition of Jibe Mobile suggesting that Rich Communication Suite services, or RCS, could help wireless carrier recover lost ground here. 

Mobile messaging as marketing tactic has evolved quickly over the past few years, with the once-dominant SMS being relegated to a lesser role while messaging applications, push notifications and app messaging have each become more prevalent, effectively shrinking the role of carriers at the same time. RCS promises more exciting services than basic text, such as instant messaging or chat, live video and file sharing, capabilities that could help marketers broaden their mobile reach while boosting carriers? revenues.

?Should RCS penetration among subscribers reach a point where it becomes viable for marketers to create and deliver campaigns via RCS-based services, then brands will be able to interact with their customers using the multiple rich communications capabilities that will be native to the device of the mobile user,? said Pamela Clark-Dickson, principal analyst for consumer services at Ovum. ?For example, text/voice/video chat, sharing of content/location, or the ability for a brand to appear as a contact within the address book but in such a way that by clicking on the contact, the user can access whatever content the brand would like to provide ? a bit like a BBM channel or a Line official account.?

IP-based communications
Jibe helps wireless carriers to deploy RCS services, which is the GSM Association?s approach for enabling IP-based communications services, including messaging as well as enhanced voice calls.

The progress of RCS has been slow with only a few key wireless carriers deploying services so far, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Google?s acquisition of Jibe is likely to accelerate penetration of RCS in terms of native availability on Android and in interworking services between carriers. The move is also likely to cause some carriers that have stayed away from RCS so far to reconsider.

?The fact that Google has seen fit to invest in RCS could be viewed in a positive light as being a validation of what the GSMA is trying to achieve with RCS, i.e. helping telcos to upgrade their messaging and voice services,? Ms. Clark-Dickson said.

?Aside from its blog post, Google hasn?t really expanded on its intentions for RCS, except for a reference to working with partners - including telcos and device vendors - to accelerate the deployment of RCS-based services,? she said.

?That would tend to indicate that Google is, at least initially, open to co-operation.?

Low adoption
RCS can be deployed either natively or as a downloadable app. Right now, the focus is one making the experience native.

Marketers need to keep an eye on how RCS develops now that Google has acquired Jibe, but may not need to take any other steps just yet.

In the meantime, brands have their hands full learning the ins and outs of how to use the numerous other messaging opportunities available to them on mobile.

?So if the penetration of RCS grows, then it will start to represent an opportunity for marketers to use RCS services to communicate with their customers,? Ms. Clark-Dickson said. ?At the moment, subscriber adoption is still too low for RCS to be a viable option for marketers, so I guess you could say that penetration is a significant challenge/inhibitor.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York