Recently I reported in an article about the current state of affairs regarding RCS (Rich Communication Services). I also mentioned how confused and disorganized it was in the past. And I have expressed the suspicion that the (no longer quite) new communication standard will get a much-needed unified organization through Google’s announcement to push the implementation itself now.
Now, however, things became much more complicated, according to the Verge (among others). The four largest network operators in the US – AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint – announced on 25 October 2019 that they are working on their own messaging app to use the standard. What’s particularly remarkable is that despite the statement that they are cooperating with Google on the implementation, Google’s reaction speaks a different language. Judging by the company’s significantly delayed response, the announcement came as much of a surprise to them as it did to the public.
Google apparently knew nothing about it
I have to explain that Google is the company that has been trying to push the implementation of RCS over the last few years. Initially, this task was assigned to the network operators. However, their efforts were so unmotivated and poorly organised that Google announced in June that it would now continue the project itself, independently of the network operators. To this end, a pilot project was launched in France and Great Britain, with other countries to follow ” over the course of the year”. Then things became quiet, but the assumption was that Google would continue to work behind the scenes to make RCS available to a broader public as quickly as possible.
And now the announcement of the American network operators. The initiative is a joint venture called the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI). What has not been explained is why Google’s efforts are now being undermined. One assumption would be that network operators are afraid to relinquish control of RCS to Google. Also, CCMI did not explain how it might look with end-to-end encryption or whether Apple is now willing to work on compatibility for iMessage. These questions are indeed a general problem with RCS, but with a clear answer on them CCMI could have positioned itself as a trailblazer.
Back to square one
In short, just a few months after it looked like RCS could finally get the thoughtful and well-planned implementation it always needed, the four major network operators in the US have decided to make the map much more complicated again. Will we ever see RCS as a new communication standard, a successor to SMS? That remains to be seen.