Rich Communication Services (RCS) is now poised to become the dominant mode of text-based telemarketing over the next five years. Bringing together the capabilities of traditional SMS and over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps – and providing them to consumers from within their handset’s native interface – will allow RCS to become the standard means by which brands build and maintain their customer base. By exceeding the limitations of SMS, and avoiding the complications of OTT apps, RCS will enable businesses to interact with consumers in far more engaging ways than simple text can offer. Dynamic multimedia, real-time feedback, AI chatbot services, targeted advertising and more will be available without the need to download a separate application – or risk the suboptimal security credentials such solutions can involve. Messaging is becoming a platform, and businesses have much to gain.
To help bring this about, the GSMA is convening a series of A2P (Application to Person) Future Messaging Labs around the world. These day-long conferences bring together key players from across the ecosystem to exchange ideas, identify challenges, and share best practice. As RCS becomes a commercial reality, contributors to these sessions will determine the shape that it takes. Our latest lab in Munich saw Europe’s most influential voices in this area meet to discuss progress, and chart the course ahead: leading operators such as Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, device manufacturers such as Ericsson and Samsung, and digital giants such as Google and Gemalto assembled to consider use cases and establish the precise needs of businesses over the next five years. Also in attendance were a wide array of brands, marketing companies, and their partners in tech, reflecting the GSMA’s aim to achieve collaboration between all those with a stake in this coming transformation.
The breadth of cooperation on display in Munich is highly encouraging – the potential gains are enormous for all involved. Research conducted in November, which drew responses from businesses of all sizes in Europe’s three largest economies, indicates overwhelming support for RCS as a commercial platform. 82% of respondents in Germany, France and the UK expressed interest in RCS for marketing and customer relations; more than half of all enterprises in Germany indicated their intention to use RCS within 12 months, while in France and the UK nearly two-thirds did so. The existing market in Europe for A2P SMS was valued at around $13 billion last year; much of the logistical work and customer data needed to achieve broad customer reach using RCS is therefore already in place, requiring interested parties largely to upgrade rather than start from scratch.
The resulting traffic will present immense opportunities to those helping bring it about. Mobilesquared predicts that monthly active users of RCS are expected to exceed 430 million globally in 2018; as well as projecting a leap to 2.76 billion over the course of the following year. This corresponds with a forecast rise in commercial launches from 162 to 492 participating operators over the same period worldwide. The impact on revenues for SMS solutions will be profound. By 2022, we can expect to see A2P SMS market share come down by 56 per cent, a total of nearly $15 billion in that year alone; over the entire period, cumulative revenues from A2P RCS are expected to exceed $72 billion. In connecting brands to their customers by the most effective means possible, commercial momentum is now clearly on the side of RCS.
The European market is a swiftly developing and lucrative one – there are already 27 live RCS operators across the continent. The reach of A2P RCS messaging, however, will be global. 50 operators worldwide already offer RCS, with 22 device manufacturers having adopted the GSMA’s Universal Profile specification. Full launches in China and India are set for 2019, and feedback from our last A2P Future Messaging Lab in Bogota reflected the high level of interest now evident in Latin America. Our next sessions will take place in Atlanta on January 31, 2018, at which we hope to welcome all those seeking to make good on the promise of A2P RCS in the United States; then, on February 25, delegates will meet at the next Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to assess the global picture.
With 2018 set to be the year in which RCS becomes increasingly ubiquitous, there will be much to discuss.