Future Networks at MWC Shanghai 2017: A New Global Platform for Conversations, Chatbots and Commerce

The Future Networks programme held a seminar at MWC Shanghai 2017 recently titled A New Global Platform for Conversations, Chatbots and Commerce with guest speakers from 3Cinteractive, Deutsche Telekom, Google, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE. The session covered each organisation’s vision for the future of messaging including in-depth discussions on Rich Communication Services (RCS), Messaging as a Platform (MaaP) and the opportunities for brands.

David O’Byrne, IP Communications Project Director at the GSMA opened the event by outlining the state of play for RCS worldwide and described how mobile is fast becoming the conduit for how brands interact with their customers. He also talked up the huge potential of the market: “we now have 51 live networks and north of 137 million users on a monthly basis…..we will hit 75 live networks by Q12018 conservatively looking at 350 million active users and by 2019 we will have over 130 live networks and over a billion active users.” He described the work of the GSMA in supporting operators in the transition from business SMS to Messaging as a Platform (MaaP) and highlighted the potential scale of this market. O’Byrne explained that the most common method brands employ to communicate with their customers today is called Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS: “This A2P messaging business is a growing business, a $60 million business – this will lead us to what we call conversational commerce.” However, the advent of RCS MaaP has the potential to vastly improve this experience by adding enhancements via IP messages. This would mean that customers can make purchases directly from the messaging screen such as buying tickets or other services that are time-stamped confirming the transaction. This could include integrating multiple transactions into a single interface and verifying purchases that will provide peace of mind to consumers. This is known as conversational commerce. The GSMA has just issued a second version of its Universal Profile for Advanced RCS messaging that enables these services and enhances the customer experience further through the use of artificial intelligence-enabled chatbots that will deal with customer and staff interactions.

Steve Murphy, CIO at 3Cinteractive picked up this theme and discussed the opportunity of RCS and conversational commerce to brands. He highlighted that “what brands want is an engaged customer that results in a transaction and what customers want is an intuitive experience with their favourite brand”. He discussed the limitations of apps as a method for customer loyalty highlighting that the average app loses 77% of its users in the first 3 days and 95% after 90 days. SMS although more limited is far stickier and retains over 90% of users after 90 days. It also has extremely high open and response rates approaching 98% according to MobileSquared. However, Murphy highlighted that “SMS does not provide brands with an opportunity for branding, read receipts or customer interaction”. He argued that RCS is the ideal platform for this and that it will ultimately change the way brands and customers interact. Murphy also highlighted how “RCS provides companies with an opportunity to customise the look and feel of their brand within the messaging app including images and videos to provide a seamless, intuitive and interactive experience”.

Yunsang Park, Senior Vice President and Group Leader at Samsung Mobile gave an engaging and bullish presentation that encouraged all players in the space to work collaboratively to take advantage of the opportunity and “fight back against the OTTs with RCS”. He explained that the market had changed and consumers now expected more from their SMS app such as group chat, file transfer and read receipts. Mr Park also confirmed that Samsung’s vision was to achieve “mass scale and ensure the highest possible user access and provide an RCS solution that enables all the features consumers expect.” He stressed that this would require a platform that creates new markets and revenue streams by building partnerships to enrich the RCS ecosystem. He concluded by outlining Samsung’s goal of developing an end-to-end solution that drives fast RCS adoption with benefits to all stakeholders. Samsung also intends to preload an RCS app on all of its devices globally, leveraging its status as the world’s largest handset manufacturer. “All devices from Samsung will have RCS features,” he said.

Dr. Petja Heimbach, Vice President of Communication, Deutsche Telekom and Chair of IPCET at the GSMA spoke of the success that has been achieved so far through an open ecosystem, industry cooperation and coordination. This collaboration has led to the creation of the UP and the development of the Hub-as-a-service offer as well native device integration. The UP is currently supported by 76 operators, OEMs and OS providers worldwide. Regarding the development of MaaP, Dr. Heimbach commented “it’s not black and white TV anymore it’s colour and it’s fully interactive.” He also stressed the importance of keeping the simplicity of the ecosystem in place arguing that there should be fast and easy entry to the market, urging the industry to focus on “unity, scale and value” over the long-term.

Zhu Jinyun, CEO, Cloud Computing & IT Product Operations, ZTE Corporation spoke of the importance of RCS to device manufacturers and encouraged the market to maintain its openness before outlining ZTE’s contributions to the development of RCS such as interconnection testing.

The GSMA Future Networks programme is working to support operators in the transformation to 5G technologies and help them capitalise on the new opportunities that IP based technologies will usher in. This includes convening the industry through a number of different initiatives such as driving consensus on an Operator and Hub Interconnection Memoranda of Understanding document, the development of the Universal Profile specification for Advanced Messaging (2.0) as well as regular meet-ups at the newly formed Future Messaging Labs.

For more information or to get involved, please go here.