Free over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps with text, VoIP and even video features have made the traditional operator revenue model of paid messaging subscriptions, and even monthly voice minutes, obsolete. With continued smartphone growth and so many free alternatives available, subscriber expectations have changed and users are becoming less likely to pay for basic messaging services, eroding a multi-billion dollar revenue stream for mobile operators. These driving factors have forced operators to rethink their approach and created a push for Rich Communications Services (RCS) as a standard that will help mobile operators compete with OTT services. So far, the standard has seen limited uptake, and the value to operators is still in question.
RCS: Not cheap or easy
The RCS initiative was announced in February 2008, yet few wireless operators have deployed RCS services. In North America, MetroPCS released an RCS client in 2012, and Sprint just released its first RCS client in 2013. To deploy RCS, the operator must first deploy an IMS infrastructure alongside their existing circuit-switched network. The RCS infrastructure, which includes a presence server, messaging server, video share application server, etc., must be deployed on top of the IMS infrastructure. Operators also need to integrate with existing platforms in the network, such as billing, provisioning, portal, proxy servers, gateway and voicemail systems. Finally, RCS services won’t work without RCS-enabled handsets.
RCS: Profiting from a seamless experience
RCS creates a new opportunity for mobile operators to improve the fragmented user experience created by the sheer number of messaging applications available. By rolling out RCS services and handsets, mobile operators will be able to provide users with VoIP features, video calling, instant messaging, image and file transfer, and geo-location sharing all from one application. However, without a monetization strategy that drives a strong ROI from the cost and effort required, RCS deployments will be too little, too late.
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