Described as the service enabler that no-one understands, for services that no-one wants, RCS cut off a limb today and re-presented itself to the world. “How do you like me now, it asked?” “Very well,” the operators replied as if suddenly, yet surprisingly, dazzled by this new appearance.
RCS isn’t anything as such – beyond a set of specifications for operators to deliver rich communications (presence-enabled services, file exchange, video calling) in an interoperable manner on IMS-based networks. The problem has been that despite support for the concept from within the GSMA and some operators , there has been little market commitment. Now, however, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone all intend to commercially launch RCS across several European markets from late 2011, and additional operators are expected to launch later in 2012.
Yes, five operators have said that they plant to launch RCS commercially across Europe from the end of 2011 onwards. Previously coy of committing to commercial services, and with very few RCS clients out in the market, what has brought about this public commitment – other than the deadline of a GSMA World Congress conference session.
Well, it seems that it is the development of RCS-e (RCS lite), developed as a subset of RCS 2.0, that has pushed forward this market commitment. RCS-e was developed by on a specification put forward by Bharti, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Orascom Telecom, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor and Vodafone which aims to lower the hurdle and speed up the market introduction and adoption of these services. It does this mainly be removing the need for a centralized presence server that contains full user profiles and manages presence of all RCS clients from the network. So RCS-e changes the approach for presence, moving from the need for a presence server to a dynamic capabilities discovering based on “SIP OPTIONS”. Devices will operate in a P2P manner, only exposing presence to the user when the user wants to access a presence-enabled service.
That aside, the operators hailed RCS-e as a fully interoperable RCS implementation, that will enable customers to use IM, share live video and share files such as photos simultaneously during calls, regardless of the network or device used. The participating operators will work with handset suppliers to ensure the service is integrated into the address books of devices, so that customers will not have to download any additional software or technically configure their handsets in order to benefit from the enhanced experience.
One provider of SIP-IMS based equipment and software said that he hoped the announcement would speed operator adoption of RCS. “2010 has not been the year we hoped it would be for RCS,” he said. “Hopefully this will move things forward.”
And despite the fact that some element of investment has been reduced the question still remains: Is RCS the best way, the most consumer-friendly way, to deliver these sorts of services?