There is no arguing the Short Message Service is a dead technology that has only been kept alive by provider networks and mobile advertisers that have failed to agree on an alternative. Because an SMS cannot transport an image, the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) was introduced, but for many, having two different solutions to accomplish two tasks that go hand in hand has been more cumbersome than useful. For close to a Decade, the GSMA which is a consortium of global providers has been trying to define a new standard that could compete with Over The Top (OTT) services like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, etc, which at the time, were either non-existent or a developing threat.
The standard in question was called the Rich Communication Service (RCS) and the task to develop an RCS client was passed over to Jibe Mobile, a company that Google recently acquired. And it only makes sense, because, Google, unlike Facebook or Apple, has not made its mark in the messaging world despite attempts at getting wider adoption for Google Chat, which evolved into Google Hangouts.
Google, which has decided to rename the RCS client Jibe, hopes, with the backing of the GSMA and the provider networks behind the standard, which include; América Móvil, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Globe Telecom, KPN, Millicom, MTN, Orange, PLAY, Smart Communications, Sprint, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, Telstra, TIM, Turkcell, VimpelCom, and Vodafone; it can succeed where previous attempts have failed. Google’s role in all this is more than just finishing off the development of the client, it will host the core RCS services in the Google Cloud, that is calling the Jibe Cloud. Mobile networks will then connect to the Jibe Cloud through the Jibe Hub.
In terms of what Jibe offers, expect to have functionality like: read receipts, group chats, photo sharing AND possibly video calling, all while maintaining backward compatibility with SMS and MMS standards. By defining a universal profile, any carrier could integrate the standard in their networks, allowing users to connect easily and communicate across networks.
The unfortunate side to all this is the fact that Jibe will only be available on the Android Platform. But frankly, Apple wouldn’t care less, as iMessage is quite a popular solution amongst iPhone users, and for Facebook, WhatsApp is the single most successful messaging app in circulation since SMS, AND, every platform uses it.
There are two reasons why this standard could prove successful:
- Providers can reclaim SMS-style revenue, which they currently lose to OTT solutions that only incur data charges
- Governments that are looking to snoop on their citizens can tap into RCS by design as the GSMA states: “Mobile network operators are subject to a range of laws and license conditions that require them to be capable of intercepting customer communications, to retain a range of subscriber and usage data and to disclose this data to law enforcement agencies on demand. While RCS allows lawful intercept at both the service data layer and session data layer, any interference with mobile users’ right to privacy must be in accordance with the law.”