HomeMobile EuropeVodafone says it's not the Joyn brand that's important: it's all about...

    Vodafone says it’s not the Joyn brand that’s important: it’s all about services


    RCS-e has become a bit of a dirty word for many, partly because of the perceived delay in bringing this standards-based, interoperable technology to market, and partly because some struggle to see the value in providing interoperable "rich communications" in the first place. However, at Messaging World Congress on Wednesday, Florent Stroppa, Principal Product Manager at Vodafone, was having none of that talk.

    He said that in fact bringing a service to market in 18 months, as two Spanish operators have just done, since the standard was effectively re-started is far from a delay. In fact, it's very quick.

    "RCS-e started 18 months ago. RCS was parked, and we didn't really care about that any more. RCS-e has only been around for 18 months, and it's not that long," he said.
    Interestingly, Stroppa's view is that RCS-e will enable operators to disrupt the disruptors. His vision of RCS-e is that it will enable telecoms operators to inject comms-type services – chat, voice, video – into other apps. For instance, chat or video could be added into a customer service app. Or the ability to share information, or move to a voice call, within an app would allow developers to add communications to their apps, crucially "without maintaining a communications service backend."

    "There's nothing that provides this kind of technology within OTT. If we fail, there will be no-one doing this, so it's really up to the industry to provide these kinds of services" Stroppa said. (Although perhaps someone should point Stroppa in the direction of the likes of Twilio he is quite so confident that only the telcos can inject comms services into apps)

    This provides a crucial answer to the question: how will operators differentiate in RCS-e — when they're all providing the same sort of interoperable services? By moving to RCS-e as a service, rather than seeing it as an app in itself, operators have the opportunity to become the intelligent pipe that actually adds value.

    To that end, Stroppa was pretty clear on what he thinks of Joyn, the GSMA's designated brand for RCS-e type services. "Joyn is irrelevant," he said. He later tempered that by saying that Joyn will be irrelevant only in the long term, perhaps serving a useful purpose in the short term as a useful moniker for the sort of rich commas functionality it provides, creating a network effect in the beginning.

    But he was pretty clear: "We don't care about apps, we care about services. SMS doesn't have a brand, MMS doesn't have a brand." In other words, Vodafone is not interested in having a  specific RCS-e messaging brand on its phone, whether Joyn or anything else. Instead, it wants to see RCS-e employed to provide capability discovery in the network and the device. A user will have his messaging app, and that will be supported by the ability to discover network conditions, device capabilities, and presence as a capability. (He doesn't see presence as a shared item, either, with users advertising their presence through the messaging app. "You don't share the fact you're online, you're always online," he said. "You'll soon have a messaging app that will use SMS for most cases, and use RCS-e for capability discovery," he concluded.)

    And another thing – Stroppa was pretty blunt about so-called innovation in RCS-e. In terms of the feature set, he said, there is none. ICQ did all the feature set innovation a decade ago. "ICQ really invented chat, it invented presence, IM, group chat, file sharing. Let's get everything in perspective, innovation is in the experience space, not in the feature set," he said.

    Joyn, Stroppa said, is mainly about the ability to provide a better service for voice; about the ability to add video to calling, providing a very good user experience by removing barriers to action. 3G video calling was a "nightmare" because you had to know if the other person had a video phone, was on 3G, wanted to do a call – quite aside from network QoS. RCS-e takes care of that, which is what is meant by capability discovery. "In fact we joked that the e in RCS-e stands for edge, because really what we are dong is providing edge to edge service discovery."