Should we really be more optimistic about #RCS?

At around the same time, DT announced that it was now back on track and had officially launched Joyn. We think it’s now safe to say that we agree with this assessment.

If this view is correct, it’s significant, not least because there’s a nice bit of shadenfreude to be shared with those who suggested that DT’s postponement in previous months might have been a heavy blow to the credibility of Joyn etc.

At the time, we thought such negative pronouncements might have been premature, having gained some inside information as to the reasons for the delay. Of course, negative opinions sweep through the news pages like wildfire. Does bad news spread faster than good? Who knows, but the launch is timely as it certainly adds further credibility to our suspicion that times are changing.

What it does not do, of course – and this is where we tend to adopt a more cautious line and have more sympathy with the gainsayers – is mean that Joyn will become a rip-roaring success this year. It probably won’t be, at least not in terms that many of today’s applications are measured. We have all seen charts that indicate how particular applications have built vast communities in a matter of weeks or that another has achieved x million downloads in a few months.

We don’t believe that RCS (and its alter-ego Joyn) will be like that. We tend to take a longer-term view. It is absolutely fair to say – as many have – that RCS doesn’t do much to enhance features already available in OTT messaging and communications applications. True – it doesn’t. But there has been considerable misinterpretation both within and without the industry regarding what RCS can achieve.

It wasn’t helped by the fact that some saw it as a response to OTT challenges. There was a view that it will help “operators fight back”. We don’t think so and never have. In particular, we have learnt from working with people like Newpace et al and interviewing operators repeatedly at conferences over the past few year that it never can be like that, whatever some of the most ardent enthusiasts have said.

Yes, you will find cheerleaders who will use that line, but it’s mistaken. We learnt early on that RCS was not something that could be monetised. You can’t charge people for it to increase revenue – and if that’s the case, what is there to fight back against? Can you compete head to head with a free offer? The reality is that messaging revenues are faced with challenges from everywhere.

But a free offer isn’t the whole story. What you can do is deliver an enhanced, upgraded messaging and communications experience that is available to all. Maybe it’s time to focus on what it does do rather than point the finger at what it does not.

That’s the most important thing. It’s not a challenge to OTTs: rather it’s an upgrade to what mobile providers do today. It helps them stay relevant and delivers something of obvious benefit. Yes, we can Skype people in our buddy lists. Yes, we can use some other closed group (insert favoured OTT application of choice, from whichever market here) to reach particular people who also belong to that community. But if we want to reach anyone and everyone in our professional and personal phonebooks, the default remains standard voice and messaging.

This is what RCS is still about. It’s not something really clever and complicated, but that doesn’t matter. In other words, it’s just something that operators need to do to extend new capabilities to something we take for granted. Of course, it can be attacked for being late or delivering less than some of the shiniest OTT applications can.

And, the more tech-savvy critics can point to other deficiencies too. But it’s not about that – it’s more about the lowest common denominator, delivering a better experience for all rather than a select few, and making sure that it leverages the same benefits of interoperability which are available for mobile users today, rather than existing in clusters or islands of isolation.

In the longer-term, we expect to see the opening up of APIs and integration with other solutions (including those from OTT players) and novel new applications that will bring significant benefits. It may help promote a range of new services, simply through ubiquity. But that’s to come. For now, it’s enough to consider that it really does seem as if positive change is coming. As we have remarked before, we’ll know for sure that’s the case when we don’t have to comment on the topic anymore.

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