For years we've been hearing about the potential of RCS, a protocol replacement for SMS that would bring iMessage and Whatsapp-like features to texting. Unfortunately there's been very little to show for it, with spotty support among carriers, and only Google and Samsung showing any real movement.
Today the big four wireless carriers in the US -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon (parent company of Engadget) -- announced their "Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative." It's a joint venture that they promise will "Create a single seamless, interoperable RCS experience across carriers, both in the U.S. and globally."
To enable the service, the CCMI joint venture is working to develop and deploy the standards-based, interoperable messaging service starting with Android and expected in 2020. Working with its carrier ownership group and other companies in the RCS ecosystem, the CCMI service will:
- Drive a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem and accelerate the adoption of Rich Communications Services (RCS)
- Enable an enhanced experience to privately send individual or group chats across carriers with high quality pictures and videos
- Provide consumers with the ability to chat with their favorite brands, order a rideshare, pay bills or schedule appointments, and more
- Create a single seamless, interoperable RCS experience across carriers, both in the U.S. and globally
Details on exactly how they'll do that are scant, and while Android is mentioned in the announcement, Google and Samsung are missing. The parts of the plan that we know, are that a new app/service is supposed to launch on Android first next year. There's no word on support for iOS, and it will be interesting to see if the supposedly open standard crosses platforms.
The other big part of the opportunity is related to businesses. The carriers think RCS could be the backbone of a way to do all kinds of customer support and sales via your phone, and forming a joint venture could be a way to get a piece of that.