An Interview with Ryan Sullivan, VP, Product Development, Sprint.
Sprint has become first to partner with Google and deploy the GSMA’s Universal Profile for Advanced Messaging. The profile, which is backed by 58 global operators, OEMs and OS providers, upgrades existing operator messaging services, providing users with a common, consistent and globally interoperable service that includes features such as group chat, hi-res photo sharing and read receipts.
Sprint’s service was launched at the end of last year via the Messenger app for Android devices which was developed by Google. All new Android devices from Sprint now come pre-loaded with Messenger for Android.
To find out more about why Sprint launched the service we spoke to Ryan Sullivan, VP, Product Development at Sprint. In the first of a series of interviews with Operators we find out more about their experience, and what the benefits are.
GSMA: Why has Sprint decided to offer this messaging service now? How will it improve the messaging services consumers can already access?
Ryan Sullivan: Sprint is focused on the move to all-IP solutions as the future of our messaging and voice services. Customers will enjoy new features and functionality as a result. An IP experience really is about giving customers an integrated experience where voice, messaging and data services work seamlessly together.
GSMA: Why has Sprint been so quick to offer this service particularly in beating competitors to be first to market?
RS: Sprint partnered with Jibe Mobile in 2013 to launch the first RCS downloadable client (Messaging Plus) that worked cross-carrier. With the Jibe Mobile / Google partnership on a native, integrated RCS offering the opportunity existed for us to work with Google to bring these great features to Sprint customers. Sprint is committed to an offering that will be interoperable cross-carrier as an existing member of the GSMA. RCS is not necessarily about competition, but is about bringing all carriers ultimately to a universal standard that allows interoperability of rich messaging and communications features across customers and mobile carrier networks worldwide. All boats rise as other carriers commit to RCS and launch their RCS implementations, utilizing the standards defined by the industry.
GSMA: What are the marketing challenges to take texting to a new level before anyone else?
RS: Sprint launched nine devices in 2016 and is committed to a full roll-out of devices in 2017 and beyond with the preloaded RCS client. As seen with the over-the-top players, it is important to have an RCS client available for as many devices as possible as the eco-system will expand quickly with the sheer number of devices in market. Customers on older devices that have Android version – Kit-Kat or better Android version can also go out to Google Play and download the Google Messenger app (with RCS).
GSMA: What are the key benefits this upgrade will offer Sprint customers?
RS: One of the key benefits for Sprint customers is the integrated experience of being able to utilize advanced messaging features as the native experience versus always having to open up a downloaded 3rd party application. If the downstream customer has RCS capabilities, the enhanced features like chat, group chat, file share, push location, etc. will be available and recognized by the sending device. If the device on the receiving end is an older device, Google Messenger will simply fall back and send the message via SMS or MMS.
GSMA: What plans do you have to improve this service further in the future? What can subscribers expect?
RS: The roadmap for RCS and future features is controlled by the world-wide carriers and is in constant evolution. RCS 6.0 standards are already in development as carriers roll out 5.x capabilities. The GSMA produces the output of the carrier decisions on specs and features and functionality. Google along with other carriers building their own solution are then charged with implementing these evolving standards.
GSMA: Why is Google’s solution the best for Sprint subscribers?
RS: The Google solution allows for updates from Google Play. Just like any other android application, updates, bug fixes and other modifications to the application can be done quickly and pushed as new features and functionality are introduced. Other implementations through handset manufacturers require a maintenance release (MR) that normally requires more planning, lead time as other device fixes are included in the MR for a specific device. In addition, Google is seen as the world-wide leader in providing a Google Hub solution that will allow all carriers to connect for inter-carrier interop. Carriers that implement a non-Google RCS solution but utilize the RCS Universal Profile standards can connect their back-end to the Google Hub. Sprint believes that a partner like Google is essential to leading the standardization around interop in order to make RCS a successful standard for IP messaging globally.
GSMA: What benefits does the GSMA’s Universal Profile for Advanced Messaging offer carriers?
RS: The GSMA Universal Profile brings together the carrier-selected approaches from the European, North American and Asian profiles into a single solution. This profile allows Google who is now part of the GSMA to implement to one standard that will ultimately allow better acceptance by carriers world-wide. Getting to a Universal Profile has been a long process as some carriers have already implemented an early version of RCS that will now require changes to bring their launch solution into compliance with the Universal Profile (UP).