Rich Communication Services
Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a communication protocol between mobile telephone carriers and between phone and carrier, aiming at replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is richer, provides phonebook polling (for service discovery), and can transmit in-call multimedia. It is part of broader IP Multimedia Subsystem. Google added support for E2EE for one-on-one conversations in their own extension.
In early 2020, it was estimated that RCS was available from 88 operators throughout 59 countries in the world. There are approximately 390 million users per month and the business is expected to be worth $71 billion by 2021.
The Rich Communication Suite industry initiative was formed by a group of industry promoters in 2007. In February 2008 the GSM Association officially became the project 'home' of RCS and an RCS steering committee was established by the organisation.
The scope of the steering committee's work was to entail the definition, testing, and integration of the services in the application suite known as RCS. Three years later, the RCS project released a new specification – RCS-e (e = 'enhanced'), which included various iterations of the original RCS specifications. The GSMA program is now called Rich Communication Services.
The GSMA published the Universal Profile in November 2016. The Universal Profile is a globally agreed, single GSMA specification for advanced communications. Carriers that deploy the Universal Profile guarantee interconnection with other carriers. 47 mobile network operators, 11 manufacturers, and 2 OS providers (Google and Microsoft) have announced their support. Google's Jibe Cloud platform is an implementation of the RCS Universal Profile, designed to help carriers launch RCS quickly and scale easily.
Samsung is the major device OEM to support RCS globally. Samsung RCS capable devices have been commercially launched in Europe since 2012 and in the United States since 2015.
Google supports RCS on Android devices with its Android SMS app Messages. In April 2018, it was reported that Google would be transferring the team that was working on its Google Allo messaging service to work on a wider RCS implementation. In June 2019, Google announced that it would begin to deploy RCS on an opt-in basis via the Messages app (branded as chat features), with service compliant with the Universal Profile and hosted by Google rather than the user's carrier. The rollout of this functionality began in France and the United Kingdom. In response to concerns over the lack of end-to-end encryption in RCS, Google stated that it would only retain message data in transit until it is delivered to the recipient. In November 2020, Google later announced that it would begin to roll out end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations between Messages users, beginning with the beta version of the app. In December 2020, Samsung updated its Samsung Experience messages app to also allow users to opt into Chat.
In October 2019, the four major U.S. carriers announced an agreement to form the "Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative" to jointly implement RCS using a newly developed app. This service will be compatible with the Universal Profile. However, both T-Mobile and AT&T later signed deals with Google to replace their messaging app with Google's own Messages app.
This article needs to be updated.(February 2017)
RCS combines different services defined by 3GPP and Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) with an enhanced phonebook. Another phone's capabilities and presence information can be discovered and displayed by a mobile phone. RCS reuses 3GPP specified IMS core system as the underlying service platform taking care of issues such as authentication, authorization, registration, charging and routing.
- Release 1 Version 1.0 (15.12.2008)
- Offered the first definitions for the enrichment of voice and chat with content sharing, driven from an RCS enhanced address book (EAB).
- Release 2 Version 1.0 (31.08.2009)
- Added broadband access to RCS features: enhancing the messaging and enabling sharing of files.
- Release 3 Version 1.0 (25.02.2010)
- Focused on the broadband device as a primary device.
- Release 4 Version 1.0 (14.02.2011)
- Included support for LTE.
- Release 5 Version 1.0 (19.04.2012)
- RCS 5.0 is completely backward compatible with RCS-e V1.2 specifications and also includes features from RCS 4 and new features such as IP video call, IP voice call and Geo-location exchange. Global interoperability is a key aspect of these specifications, and RCS5.0 supports both OMA CPM and OMA SIMPLE IM. RCS 5.0 includes following features listed below.
- Standalone Messaging
- 1-2-1 Chat
- Group Chat
- File Transfer
- Content Sharing
- Social Presence Information
- IP Voice call (IR92 and IR.58)
- IP Video call (IR.94)
- Geolocation Exchange
- Capability Exchange based on Presence or SIP OPTIONS
- Release 5.1
- 5.1 is completely backward compatible with the RCS-e V1.2 and RCS 5.0 specifications. It introduces additional new features such as Group Chat Store & Forward, File Transfer in Group Chat, File Transfer Store & Forward, and Best Effort Voice Call, as well as lessons-learnt and bug fixes from the V1.2 interoperability testing efforts. Global interoperability is a key aspect of these specifications, and 5.1 supports both OMA CPM and OMA SIMPLE IM.
- Version 1.0 (13.08.2012)
- Version 2.0 (03.05.2013)
- Version 3.0 (25.09.2013)
- Version 4.0 (28.11.2013)
- Release 5.2 Version 5.0 (07.05.2014)
- Improved central message store and introduced service extension tags into the specification. It also introduced a number of incremental improvements and bug fixes to RCS 5.1 V4.0 that improve the user experience and resolve issues that were noticed in deployed RCS networks
- Release 5.3 Version 6.0 (28.02.2015)
- Release 6.0 Version 7.0 (21.03.2016)
- Support for Visual Voice Mail and more
- Release 7.0 Version 8.0 (28.06.2017)
- Support for Chatbots, SMS fallback features and more
- Release 8.0 Version 9.0 (16.05.2018)
- Support for additional Chatbots features and vCard 4.0
- Initial Version (May 2011)
- Version 1.2 (28.11.2011)
- Version 1.2.2 (04.07.2012)
The GSMA defined a series of specific implementations of the RCS specifications. The RCS specifications often define a number of options for implementing individual communications features, resulting in challenges in delivering interoperable services between carriers. The RCS specifications aim to define a more specific implementation that promote standardization and simplify interconnection between carriers.
At this time there are two major relevant releases:
- joyn Hot Fixes - based upon the RCS 1.2.2 specification (previously known as RCS-e), this includes 1:1 chat, group chat, MSRP file sharing and video sharing (during a circuit switched call). Services based upon this specification are live in Spain, France and Germany.
- joyn Blackbird Drop 1 - based upon the RCS 5.1 specification, this extends the joyn Hot Fixes service to include HTTP file sharing, location sharing, group file sharing, and other capabilities such as group chat store and forward. joyn Blackbird Drop 1 is backward compatible with joyn Hot Fixes. Vodafone Spain's network is accredited for joyn Blackbird Drop 1, and Telefónica and Orange Spain have also been involved in interoperability testing with vendors of joyn Blackbird Drop 1 clients. A number of client vendors are accredited to joyn Blackbird Drop 1.
Two or more future releases are planned:
- joyn Blackbird Drop 2 - also based upon the RCS 5.1 specification, this will primarily add IP voice and video calling. The test cases for joyn Blackbird Drop 2 have yet to be released by the GSMA.
- joyn Crane - Already available in GSMA web page.
RCS Universal Profile
The GSMA's Universal Profile is a single, industry-agreed set of features and technical enablers developed to simplify the product development and global operator deployment of RCS.
- Version 1.0 (November 2016)
- Includes core features such as capability discovery which will be interoperable between regions, chat, group chat, file transfer, audio messaging, video share, multi-device, enriched calling, location share and live sketching.
- Version 2.0 (July 2017)
- Includes Messaging as a Platform, APIs, plug-in integration and improved authentication and app security.
- Version 2.1 (December 2017)
- Version 2.2 (May 2018)
- Version 2.3 (December 2018)
- Version 2.4 (October 2019)
- Removes plug-in integration and includes integrated seamless webview.
RCS Business Messaging
RCS Business Messaging (RBM) is the B2C (A2P in telecoms terminology) version of RCS. This is supposed to be an answer to 3rd party messaging apps (or OTTs) absorbing mobile operators' messaging traffic and associated revenues. While RCS is designed to win back Person-to-Person (P2P) traffic, RBM is intended to retain and grow this A2P traffic. RCS offers "rich" features similar to those of messaging apps, but delivered (in theory) via the preloaded SMS messaging app - for example Google Messages or Samsung Messages. By making these features available in a B2C setting, RBM is expected to attract marketing and customer service spend from enterprises, thanks to improved customer engagement and interactive features that facilitate new use cases. This was the primary reason for the development of RCS by the GSMA.
RBM includes features not available to ordinary users, including predefined quick-reply suggestions, rich cards, carousels, and branding. This last feature is intended to increase consumer confidence and reduce fraud through the implementation of a verified sender system. These additional features are only available with the use of a Messaging-as-a-Platform (MaaP) server integrated with the operator's network. The MaaP controls the verified sender details, unlocking RBM features, while also segregating P2P and A2P RCS messages, aiding monetisation of the latter (SMS currently suffers from grey routes, where A2P messages are sent over P2P connections, which are cheaper or often free).
According to GSMA PR, Rich Communication Services (RCS) carriers from around the globe supporting the RCS standard include AT&T, Bell Mobility, Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Jio, KPN, KT Corporation, LG U+, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Rogers Communications, SFR, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telia Company, Telus, Verizon and Vodafone.
Universal Profile is currently backed by 68 supporters:
- 55 operators: Advanced Info Service, América Móvil, AT&T Mobility, Axiata, Beeline (brand), Bell Mobility, Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, China Unicom, Claro Americas, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Globe Telecom, Ice, Indosat Ooredoo, Jio, KDDI, KPN, M1 Limited, MegaFon, Millicom, MTN Group, MTS (network provider), NTT Docomo, Optus, Orange S.A., Personal, Rogers Communications, Singtel, Smart Communications, Sprint Corporation, T-Mobile US, Telcel, Tele2, Telefónica, Telenor, Telia Company, Telkomsel, Telstra, Telus, TIM (brand), Turkcell, Verizon Communications, VEON, and Vodafone.
- 11 OEMs: TCL (Alcatel Mobile), Asus, General Mobile, HTC, Huawei, Intex Technologies, Lava International, LG Electronics, Lenovo (Motorola), Samsung Electronics and ZTE.
- 2 mobile OS providers: Google and Microsoft.
|Movistar||Spain||June 2012|| Branded as joyn.|
|MetroPCS||United States||November 2012|| Branded as joyn.|
|KT||South Korea||December 2012|| Branded as joyn. Shuttered in 2016.|
|LG U+||South Korea||December 2012|| Branded as joyn. Shuttered in 2016.|
|SK Telecom||South Korea||December 2012|| Branded as joyn.|
|Deutsche Telekom||Germany||February 2013|| Branded as Message+|
|Telcel||Mexico||February 2013|| Branded as joyn.|
|Claro||Multiple markets||May 2013|| Branded as joyn.|
|Sprint||United States||October 2013||Launched as a separate application|
|U.S. Cellular||United States||October 2018||Universal Profile |
|Telekom||Romania||June 2014|| Branded as joyn.|
|Slovak Telekom||Slovakia||June 2014|| Branded as joyn.|
|O2||Germany||2015|| Branded as Message+Call.|
|SFR||France||May 2015|| Initially branded as joyn, now RCS.|
|T-Mobile US||United States||July 2015|| Branded as Advanced Messaging.|
|AT&T||United States||November 2015||Branded as Advanced Messaging and Video Call.|
|MTS||Russia||December 2015|| Branded as MTS Connect.|
|Jio||India||September 2016|| Branded as Jio4GVoice.|
|Sprint||United States||November 2016|| Branded as RCS. Universal Profile.|
|Rogers Wireless||Canada||December 2016||Universal Profile.|
|Fido Solutions||Canada||December 2016||Universal Profile.|
|Telenor||Multiple markets||February 2017||Universal Profile.|
|Celcom||Malaysia||May 2017||Universal Profile.|
|Vodafone||Multiple markets||2012-2017|| Universal Profile.|
|Telstra||Australia||October 2017||Branded as Telstra Messaging. Universal Profile v2.|
|Telia Company||Sweden||December 2017||Branded as SMS+.|
|Telia Company||Norway||February 2018||Branded as SMS+.|
|Globe Telecom||Philippines||February 2018||Universal Profile|
|NTT Docomo||Japan||May 2018||Branded as +Message.|
|KDDI||Japan||May 2018||Branded as +Message.|
|SoftBank Corp.||Japan||May 2018||Branded as +Message.|
|Freedom Mobile||Canada||October 2018||Universal Profile.|
|Verizon||United States||December 2018||Branded as Chat and launched as part of Android's default Messenger app with initial rollout for Pixel 3 phones|
|Google Fi||United States||January 2019||Universal Profile.|
|Telekom Albania||Albania||Universal Profile.|
|China Mobile||China||Universal Profile.|
|Orange||Multiple markets||2012-2017||Branded as Chat Messages in Romania, joyn elsewhere.
 Since July 2018 branded as Chat - Universal profile in Slovakia.
 Service in France was interrupted as of 14 November 2017.
|Vodacom||South Africa||Universal Profile.|
|Illinois Valley Cellular||United States||Universal Profile.|
|Tiercel Wireless||United States||Universal Profile.|
|TracFone Wireless||United States||Universal Profile.|
|T-Mobile US||United States||May 2020||Universal Profile|
|Swisscom||Switzerland||April 2020||Branded as Message+ (https://community.swisscom.ch/t5/Telephony-Knowledge-Base/RCS-introducing-the-future-of-SMS-Message/ta-p/612475)|
|MTS||Russia||October 2020||Only for Samsung smartphones and only for Moscow customers, MTS Connect still works for all MTS customers|
Interconnect and hubs
Like SMS, RCS requires national and international interconnects to enable roaming. As with SMS, this will be accomplished with hubbing - where third-party providers complete agreements with individual operators to interwork their systems. Each subsequent operator that connects to a hub is therefore connected automatically to all other connected operators. This eliminates the need to each operator to connect to all the others to which they may need to send messages. Interconnections and hubs are considered vital to the long-term success of RCS. RCS hubs are provided by a range of stakeholders with a vested interest in increasing RCS use. These include traditional SMS hub providers (e.g. Global Message Services and Sinch), software and hardware vendors (e.g. Interop Technologies, Mavenir, and ZTE), and also Google via its Jibe Cloud platform.
GSMA RCS accreditation
The RCS Interop and Testing (IOT) accreditation process was started by the GSMA in order to improve the quality of testing, increase transparency, drive scale, minimize complexity and accelerate time-to-market (TTM) of joyn services. Companies need to undertake the IOT process from the GSMA to apply for a license to use the service mark joyn.
"Accredited" means that the device, client or network has undertaken a series of test cases (150 to 300) in a specific set of conditions, provided test results and traces that have been analysed by the GSMA RCS IOT team and any IOT issues arising resolved with the submitter.
"Accreditation Ready" is the designation awarded to a hosted RCS service that has undertaken the same series of test cases as mobile network operator operator, provided test results and traces that have been analysed by the GSMA RCS IOT team and any IOT issues arising resolved with the submitter.
A list of RCS AS providers and their GSMA RCS Accreditation status can be found here: https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/List-of-current-accreditations-for-Hosted-Solutions-Providers-v6.pdf
The Verge criticized the inconsistent support of RCS in the United States, with carriers not supporting RCS in all markets, not certifying service on all phones, or not yet supporting the Universal Profile. Concerns were shown over Google's decision to run its own RCS service due to the possibility of antitrust scrutiny, but it was acknowledged that Google had to do so in order to bypass the carriers' inconsistent support of RCS, as it wanted to have a service more comparable to Apple's iMessage service available on Android.
Ars Technica also criticized Google's move to launch a direct-to-consumer RCS service, considering it a contradiction of RCS being native to the carrier to provide features reminiscent of messaging apps, counting it as being among various past and unsuccessful attempts by Google to develop an in-house messaging service (including Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, and Allo), and noting limitations such as its dependencies on phone numbers as the identity, not being capable of being readily synchronized between multiple devices, and the aforementioned lack of end-to-end encryption. In November 2020, Google announced that it would begin to introduce end-to-end encryption in beta.
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