Rich communication services is a protocol between both mobile operators and phones. The overall aim of RCS is for it to eventually replace SMS and MMS messaging, the formats we're all familiar with as they have been around for years. RCS was first formed in 2007 and was taken over by the GSM Association (GSMA), the industry trade body that represents mobile operators worldwide, in 2008. In 2016, the GSMA agreed on a Universal Profile - a set of standards that all mobile operators, phone manufacturers and software providers can use to help implement RCS on devices.RCS messaging is very much like WhatsApp, where live chat can take place, including multi-media support, with everything handled via the data network.
What's the current status of RCS messaging?
For a number of years, RCS has been widely supported by mobile phone networks, software and devices. It's supported by the stock Google Messages app available on Android. The problem has been that mobile phone networks have been handed responsibility for support and few have moved on it. There are probably a number of reasons for that - dropping SMS or MMS tariffs and working on cross-network functions are likely to have seen RCS as low priority. Three in the UK has already confirmed that "Enhanced Chat" is coming to the network, saying that Huawei and Honor will be first, followed by Samsung - all enabled by Google. Vodafone in the UK has supported RCS since 2014, but only with Vodafone users. In the US there's been some movement. The major US carriers - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile - have agreed a cross-carrier solution for RCS in a programme called CCMI - Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative. This will bring RCS to the US from 2020, adhering to the Universal Profile outlined by the GSMA, but using its own app.
What does RCS messaging do?
The biggest advantage RCS Messaging has over SMS - and the reason it will be implemented in the first place - is that it will enable users to send rich, verified messages. This means messages will be able to carry more information, so users can send things like photos, videos and audio messages to one another.They will be able to carry out video calls with one another from directly within the messaging app, rather than having to rely on third-party software. Group messages are possible, and little things such as read receipts and indicators to show other users are typing a message will be included as well. RCS messages will also do away with the 160 character limit currently found in SMS messages. Businesses will be able to use RCS Messaging to send things like boarding passes for airlines, package delivery notifications and credit card fraud alerts.
Are RCS messages secure?
RCS messages rely on data in order to be sent between users, and so messages are sent with client-to-server encryption. The protocol should also prevent spam messages from reaching your device, as for a company to be able to send a message via RCS, they have to go through a brand verification process. RCS messages received from companies will have the company's name in the sender info, rather than just a mobile phone number.
Who is supporting RCS Messaging?
Many companies, including operators, manufacturers and software providers have pledged their support for RCS Messaging, but by far and away the biggest supporter is Google and Samsung.If you send an RCS message to someone who's phone or mobile network don't support it, it will be sent as a regular text message, but a lot of work is underway to resolve that. For example, Google and Samsung have been collaborating to ensure that respective RCS apps work together through Android Messages and Samsung Messages. There are currently 60 supporters of RCS Messaging, broken down into 47 mobile operators, 11 OEMs and 2 OS providers.