The generalization of RCS (Rich Communication Services) is around the corner. The new protocol will allow exchanges of rich media, such as images, videos and so on. All this through the phone’s native messaging app. But for us to be able to use RCS as a real communication channel, operators and phone manufacturers need to make the necessary changes. So, when will RCS be available in your country? In which countries can it already be used?
Why does it take so long to reach a global RCS launch?
If you show some interest in the mobile market, it is not the first time you are hearing about RCS. But you may wonder why there is so much discussion about it but so few use cases. This comes from the fact that different actors on the market need to be aligned.
The phone manufacturers need to add the technology to the smartphones they are selling. Then, operators need to implement the protocol so that the messages can be delivered. If 2 customers use different operators, both need to have implemented the protocol for the users to be able to exchange RCS messages. As RCS is an Android feature, availability on Apple phones also is a barrier to a global RCS launch.
The state of RCS among phone manufacturers
For phone manufacturers, implementing RCS is relatively easy. Most brands add it as a feature in their most recent models. Here is what the 3 main mobile phone manufacturers did on RCS so far:
Samsung: Samsung and Google announced their collaboration to implement RCS. The brand has announced in a post that “Samsung will work to bring these RCS features to existing mobile phones beginning with the Galaxy S8 and S8+. New Samsung Galaxy smartphones will also natively support RCS messaging”.
Huawei: the Chinese manufacturer also announced a collaboration with Google. Even if their post did not mention which phones will support RCS, they have launched an application allowing phones with Android 2.2 or above start using RCS.
Apple: GSMA is ‘in discussions’ with the brand about RCS. The goal of this discussion is to try to find a better fallback than SMS when messaging non-iMessage devices to improve Apple to non-Apple messaging experience.
GSMA regularly releases updates on all phones that received accreditations for RCS on the GSMA website.
The state of RCS among operators
Achieving a global launch with all operators is more complicated than for phone manufacturers. Contrarily to phone manufacturers, operators do not gain any immediate benefit from implementing RCS and the costs of implementing are higher. However, operators know that this service will soon replace SMS services and that they need to work on RCS.
Moreover, all operators within a country need to have the protocol implemented for the service to be useful. In fact, if a person wants to send an RCS to someone else, he should not need to think of his friend’s operator before doing so.
RCS launches worldwide
Today, 76 operators worldwide have launched RCS. According to GSMA, 59 additional operators should launch RCS over the next year. Today, only Japan and South Korea have achieved a full RCS launch.
Today, in most Western European countries, at least one operator has already implemented the RCS protocol. Countries such as France, Norway and Germany already have multiple operators ready for RCS.
Few countries in Eastern Europe have launched RCS yet, but those who have already have multiple operators with the protocol implemented. For example, Slovakia, Hungary and Greece are all 3 concerned.
By mid-2019, GSMA forecasts 3 countries to have a full RCS launch in Europe: France, Norway and the UK. By Q1 2020, Germany should have joined that list.
And Belgium? As of today, no Belgian operator has implemented the RCS protocol. GSMA forecasts multiple launches by Q1 2020.
Launches outside Europe
Japan and South Korea are the only countries that currently have a full RCS launch. The United States and Canada will join them mid-2019 according to the GSMA forecasts. The first African and Latin American countries will enter the list by Q1 2020 according to forecasts. South Africa, Brazil and Argentina should all 3 achieve a full RCS launch by then.
The implementation of a new standard is never an easy thing to do. RCS aims at replacing SMS entirely and therefore, a lot of players need to synchronize. This cannot be done without a global dedication. Are you wondering what you, as a company will be able to do with RCS? Read our article on how business communication can benefit from RCS to find out.
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