LIVE FROM MOBILE ASIA EXPO 2013: US mobile operator MetroPCS wants Over-The-Top (OTT) players to come on board with Rich Communication Services (RCS). Meanwhile Facebook is adopting a wait-and-see attitude to the industry-backed messaging service.

“I invite OTT players to adopt RCS. It is possible to do that. RCS is a collection of existing standards. There is no room for proprietary protocols,” said Solyman Ashrafi, MetroPCS’ VP product management, during a session at Wednesday’s conference.

The reason proprietary protocols had originally emerged was “because RCS was not around,” he said.

Generally, Ashrafi said MetroPCS wanted to strike a healthy medium between OTT players and the operator community. OTT players want to “sacrifice standardisation for agility”. For operators it is the other way round, he said.

MetroPCS has been one of the leaders in the RCS sector. Last year, the operator launched joyn, the RCS-based service backed by the GSMA.

Meanwhile, Vaughan Smith, Facebook’s VP of corporate development, said the social network giant was approached about RCS-e several years ago. “We were excited to participate,” he said. But a couple of years later, “it’s been hard to get a product to market”.

Smith summarised Facebook’s current attitude. “RCS has to show traction with consumers” for the social network to get more involved.

Smith also said that mobile users with the social network’s app on their handsets spend 25 per cent of all mobile time on the social network.

How people are using the phone is changing, he said. “You can say this is a problem. A bunch of apps are replacing value-added services. Operators see SMS being cannibalised. The other way to look at it is that life has never been better. Value for customers from operators’ services has never been higher”.

In fact, thinking about an either/or choice is mistaken, he said. “Both ways are correct”. Smith’s advice is for operators to be optimistic and focus on what they do best.

He pointed to Facebook’s own shift in emphasis to mobile. “Commentators said ‘mobile is Facebook’s biggest problem’. They had a point. We had a change to make,” he admitted.

Now, he suggested, Facebook has put this right. He gave the example of Nokia pre-loading the social network’s app onto Asha handsets in Mexico, with a 20 per cent rise in device sales for mobile operator Telcel.