Rich Communication Suite Initiative Gains Momentum

The GSMA has reported significant progress in the Rich Communication Suite (RCS) Initiative, a service providing interoperable, enriched communication capabilities such as in-call multimedia sharing, conversational messaging and presence-enhanced contact management, all accessible through a user’s mobile phone contact list. The initiative has generated considerable momentum across a number of fronts since the GSMA brought RCS into its work programme in September 2008, including the delivery of the RCS Release 1 specification, the addition of new programme participants and the successful completion of interoperability tests.

Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer for the GSMA, said: “We live in a world where users want to be able to communicate and access and share information any place, any time, over any device. RCS supports these requirements, providing users the ability to launch a variety of enhanced communications, all from the personal contact lists in their mobile devices. Importantly, mobile operators are ideally positioned to deliver these new communications services to the mass market and drive mainstream adoption, with a combined user base of 3 billion people. It’s a win-win for operators and for business users and consumers.”

The GSMA recently issued the first technical specification for RCS, defining the feature set for the first version of the service and ensuring that vendors will be able to develop standard, interoperable implementations. The specification outlines the requirements for features including: Enhanced Address Book – provides presence and capability indications, enables users to initiate communications including voice calls, video calls, file transfers or messaging, and allows users to integrate multimedia elements, such as photos of contacts; Rich Call – enables users to exchange different types of content, such as video or photos, during a call; Rich Messaging – expands on traditional instant messaging to simplify and unify multiple messaging mediums and provide a richer user experience.

Future releases will include providing RCS functionality on other platforms such as PCs, offering a seamless user experience across PCs and mobiles.

Diane Myers, Directing Analyst for Service Provider VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research, said: “Today a mobile user utilises separate and distinct services, resulting in a disconnected communications experience. RCS addresses this issue by providing enhanced and integrated services that can be customisable. The ability to utilise the core components of RCS to enhance other applications and services is very compelling, and RCS represents an important milestone for operators to offer and market seamless and differentiated service capabilities.”

The number of operators and vendors supporting RCS has doubled in the past 5 months, growing to 60 participating companies. New members include OKI Electric Industry Co., Smart Communications, SoftBank Mobile, T-Mobile and Wind Telecomunicazioni, among others. The organisations collaborating in the RCS initiative are focused on driving the development and adoption of the industry-standard enhanced communications service.

Last month, the RCS Technology Group held the latest round of interoperability testing, with 14 companies coming together to test RCS services on eight different handsets. Attending companies included Alcatel-Lucent, Comneon, Ecrio, Ericsson, Huawei, LG, Movial, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Orange, Samsung, SFR, SK Telecom and Sony Ericsson. Over a one-week period, participants initiated more than 7,000 RCS sessions, testing core services including Enhanced Address Book, Content Sharing and Enhanced Messaging. Importantly, this represented the first joint tests of RCS in an environment with two operators – Orange and SFR – and two infrastructure suppliers – Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks