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What’s the Alternative to #RCS?

We think it’s best to dwell on the positive – not because we want to heighten unrealistic expectations or to ignore the reality, but rather because there really was a palpable sense that things might be about to change. There are a number of reasons for this, but let’s dispose of the negatives first.

There were no case studies that reported the number of active users. This is dreadful – in 2012, after years of trying and some clear announcements of deployments, we are neither able to quantify the numbers of RCS subscribers, nor provide accurate estimates. Analysts were present at the event, but there are no forecasts of growth, perhaps because there has been little growth to discuss.

Moreover, penetration of OTT solutions continues to grow, eroding the ubiquity that is often cited as the unique advantage of operators. Of course, it’s true that only operators can ensure that messages, conversations and so on can be delivered to any device with a phone number, so this remains a clear advantage but it’s worth noting that within communities of users or discrete groups, penetration of certain OTT solutions is reaching saturation.

We could go on – the fact is that this is a market with little obvious traction, some significant gainsayers and, it appears, some significant obstacles to realising its potential.

But, there are grounds for optimism. The simple fact is that operators are faced with no credible alternative to RCS. They can adopt an existing OTT solution and risk becoming an island in an archipelago of OTT offers. They can create their own enhanced messaging solution. But nothing else has the potential to reach all users and to ensure interoperability across devices, clients and networks.

It’s rather like IMS – a few years ago, it was acceptable to analyse the case for IMS adoption, seemingly to the nth degree. We wrote a report on this, which, considering the results of interviews with operators, concluded that IMS adoption was a simple inevitability: it was just a question of time. We think that RCS adoption is the same. It’s merely a matter of time.

Now, this isn’t going to excite anyone anytime soon, but perhaps it’s time we recognised this and stopped the endless introspection, analysis and inertia that is retarding the industry. Time to just get on with it.