Mobile messaging is undergoing a global upgrade. Approximately 50 mobile operators around the world have launched advanced messaging services, which combine the reach of SMS with the richness of IP messaging apps. Based on the GSMA’s RCS specification, these services are now supported by 375 commercial devices.
The recent finalisation of the Universal Profile for Advanced Messaging will add further momentum, propelling us towards the GSMA’s target of 3.5 billion active advanced messaging users. The new single global profile enables messaging services to be implemented in exactly the same way everywhere in the world. That makes it easier for manufacturers and operating system suppliers to build native support for advanced messaging services into smartphones and many other devices, thereby simplifying and accelerating the rollout of interoperable communications services.
Straightforward and sustainable
Widespread adoption of the Universal Profile will enable people to communicate with each other in a rich and compelling way straight out of the box. Moreover, it will ensure advanced messaging is robust, reliable and here for the long term: Consumers will no longer have to figure out which “over-the-top” app is flavour of the month before starting a group chat, sending a video or sharing a presentation. Businesses will be able to use the same advanced messaging service to reach all their customers and potential customers, rather than having to employ multiple different apps and services.
The Universal Profile will ensure that operators in the Americas, Asia and Europe deploy advanced messaging in a completely consistent way. In the past, operators have used different profiles, involving slight variations in the implementation of the RCS specification, in different regions of the world. These variations helped operators to tailor their communications service to their markets, but have meant extra work for device vendors, software providers and, in some cases, operators themselves.
The Universal Profile has the full support of Deutsche Telekom and other leading operator groups across the world, as well as major equipment vendors and software providers, such as HTC, LG Electronics, Lenovo/Motorola, Samsung Electronics, ZTE, Google and Microsoft.
As advanced messaging becomes embedded in more and more smartphones, Deutsche Telekom’s customers are increasingly discovering the service. If one of our customers attempts to send a SMS to a contact with an RCS-enabled device, that message is automatically sent as a chat, allowing both parties to enjoy a rich communications experience. Now advanced messaging is approaching a critical mass of users in Germany, we plan to start promoting the advanced features, such as group chat and file sharing. Moreover, our launch of advanced messaging in Greece in January will be supported by a marketing campaign to help get the ball rolling in that market.
Messaging as a platform
The first release of the Universal Profile, which supports chat, group chat, file transfers, audio messaging, video sharing, enriched calling, location sharing and live sketching, will be followed by a second release next year that will provide support for “messaging-as-a-platform,” underpinned by application programming interfaces (APIs), plug-in integration and improved authentication and app security.
From a strategic point of view, the evolution of advanced messaging services into a digital commerce platform is particularly important, as mobile operators should be able to earn a revenue share on transactions completed through this platform. With the second release of the Universal Profile, businesses’ ordering and fulfilment systems will be able to use APIs to interact and transact with customers via advanced messaging services. It will also be easier to automate customer care, with so-called bots responding to customer’s questions, such as: “When will the navy blue coat to be back in stock?” or “What is happening with my delivery?” These interactions will be conducted using a wide range of devices: The Universal Profile makes it straightforward for manufacturers to embed messaging capabilities into all kinds of appliances and machines, from smart wristwatches to televisions and family cars.
Fast and flexible development
It took SMS many years to evolve into a fully consistent global standard, but with advanced messaging the industry is speeding up this process. To be fully differentiated from the host of over-the-top apps, advanced messaging services need to be available across networks and devices all over the world.
At the same time, advanced messaging services can’t stand still. The core RCS specifications, which contain everything to do with the back-end systems and are embedded into the handset operating system, will be updated annually. The APIs, which enable the exchange of data with other apps, are set to be updated more regularly. And any functionality that depends solely on the client, such as messaging stickers, can be even more fluid.
Our goal at the GSMA is to enable advanced messaging to evolve in an iterative fashion, rather than having to follow a rigid and lengthy release cycle. Each new set of specifications will be fully backwards-compatible, meaning the very latest advanced messaging apps will be able to interact with earlier back-end and handset software.
In summary, the Universal Profile is a key building block in the construction of a reliable, yet versatile, advanced messaging proposition. By delivering economies of scale and interoperability, the Universal Profile will ensure mobile operators remain at the heart of the communications experience. And, crucially, it paves the way for advanced messaging to become a digital commerce platform, opening up new service opportunities and revenue streams for operators and their partners.