The GSMA’s Future Networks Programme hosted a seminar at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2018 titled ‘RCS Business Messaging: The Future of Brand Communications’ that saw a number of brands, aggregators and mobile operators come together to discuss the challenges, opportunities and market potential of RCS with a particular focus on Asia. The session included high-profile speakers from companies including 3Cinteractive, China Mobile, KDDI, Mobilesquared, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, Softbank and WIT Software who presented their vision for RCS, which has already seen 57 global launches and has 167 million monthly active users. This is expected to double to 350 million by Q4 2018 and then double again the following year, according to GSMA Intelligence. RCS is already taking off in Asia with recent launches from China Mobile, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank Corp.
David O’Byrne, Project Director at the GSMA, opened the session by outlining the progress, momentum and potential of RCS worldwide, highlighting the importance of the Universal Profile (UP) in helping 57 live RCS networks to launch and the GSMA’s additional work to support a further 90 with their preparations. For O’Byrne, the biggest opportunity for operators and the wider ecosystem is in RCS Business Messaging and he warned of the threat of OTT players in targeting this space by encouraging the industry to accelerate its adoption now to take advantage of a market estimated to be worth over $74 billion by 2021 according to GSMA Intelligence. Nick Lane, CEO of analyst house, Mobilesquared, agreed with this analysis arguing that “RCS will take brand and consumer engagement to new heights, prompting brands to migrate their app spend onto RCS.” He estimates that while there are currently 57 RCS network launches, he expects this to rise to 491 by 2022 with 2.5 billion users of which 58% will be based in Asia.
RCS Business Messaging enables subscribers to engage directly with multiple brands from one messaging platform in a more interactive and engaging way so that they can make restaurant reservations, book train tickets or make purchases without having to juggle between numerous apps. It means that brands can open up a new channel to reach and engage with their customers across a variety of different customer experiences, such as advertising or customer care, driving higher conversion rates and brand loyalty.
RCS Developing in Asia
A particular focus of the session was on the development of RCS across Asia. Hu Wenhui, Head of RCS, China Mobile provided an overview of how RCS was developing in China and the progress China Mobile in particular had made to date asking the audience “everything is ready. Will 2019 be the first year of the MaaP era in China?” China Mobile’s RCS business platform was certified by the GSMA in January 2018 and the company is now offering native RCS integration as well as a downloadable app for owners of in-market devices. China Mobile has also built a messaging platform which meets the GSMA’s UP specifications and can carry 40 million daily activate users at the same time. They estimate that there will be more than 10 million subscribers upgrading to RCS this year and have even established an open source alliance to support the development of RCS with solutions providers and smartphone manufacturers.
Japan’s three principle operators, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank outlined how their RCS based ‘+message’ service had launched in Japan in May and was an example of how operators can unify and interconnect their messaging services to the benefit of their customers. KDDI’s Manager for Service Planning and A2P Business Strategy, Hideyuki Koto, argued that “RCS will play a key role, not only as an MNO service but also as an engagement platform between brands/enterprises and consumers.” All three operators adopted GSMA RCS specifications and aligned behind a common UI/UX. It will be pre-loaded and available natively on new Android devices and available via a downloadable app for in-market devices. It will also be available to download as an app via the App Store, making it available on new iOS phones as well. Plans are also afoot to upgrade the service to support business messaging in the future.
Luis Silva, CEO and Founder at WIT Software discussed the opportunity RCS Business Messaging presented to operators to regain A2P revenues using RCS MaaP and Chatbots. Silva argued that the reach of operators – which numbers over 5 billion subscribers – is much more than all of the major OTT messaging apps combined. He argued that with common specifications in place, native support from Google and Samsung, downloadable apps and a community of committed A2P aggregators there is really no reason for brands not to start the process. “RCS turns your smartphone into the ultimate digital billboard and can change customer-brand relationships forever,” Silva argued. He also presented WIT’s RCS solutions that are designed to make the transition from SMS to RCS as painless as possible via its WIT MaaP Platform.
Benefits to Brands
Samsung’s Sean Yoo, Director of Product Innovation – RCS Program Manager, highlighted how RCS is a win-win model for the industry and how the market is driving RCS adoption. She also highlighted how Samsung’s MaaP service is meeting the demand of global markets. Yoo described the many brand-friendly features of RCS including richer message types, an intuitive and easy to use developer portal, and built-in tools such as a Chatbot converter and NLU integration for smarter conversion.
- To download the speakers’ presentations, please click here.
- To get involved in the GSMA RCS Business Messaging Labs or find out how you can attend the next session, please go here.
- For further information on RCS please click here.