Sprint will become the first operator to deploy the GSMA-backed universal profile for RCS (Rich Communications Services), announcing a partnership with Google to bring advanced messaging features to its customers using Android devices in the US.
In a statement, Sprint said launching the service will bring advanced features to its messaging capabilities, “including group chat, high-res photo sharing, read receipts, and more to the standard messaging experience on Android”.
The service will be powered by the Jibe RCS cloud platform from Google.
It is available to Sprint customers from today through the Messenger app, while all new Android devices from Sprint will come preloaded with the default SMS and RCS messaging experience from next year.
RCS is built on an IP multimedia subsystem backbone, including video calling, presence, photo sharing and enhanced messaging, and GSMA’s universal profile for the technology is now backed by 58 global operators and manufacturers.
The full profile will be officially available from 17 November. Sprint’s launch today is using an earlier version of the profile and the operator is expected to transition to the full one over time.
Core features in the first official release will support group chat, file transfer, audio messaging, video share, enriched calling, location share and live sketching while Release 2 (scheduled for Q2 2017) will offer “improved expressiveness, APIs, plug-in integration and improved authentication and app security, as well as the first steps towards establishing Advanced Messaging as a conversational commerce platform.”
The GSMA says launch of the official profile will build on the 49 operator launches and 156 Advanced Messaging devices already in market, to achieve an initial target of 3.5 billion active users.
Essentially RCS aims to give operators the opportunity to better compete with OTT messaging services such as WhatsApp and WeChat.
Google acquired Jibe Mobile last year, an RCS developer, and made a major push for the platform at this year’s Mobile World Congress.
The internet giant has worked with the mobile industry on the initiative to upgrade SMS for users throughout this year, designed to deliver more enhanced messaging experiences.
“We’re excited to see this first launch of RCS come to life, providing a better carrier messaging experience for millions of people in the US,” said Sprint in a statement.
Interestingly, Microsoft is also supporting the GSMA’s initiative, although the company’s mobile OS has a tiny market share and there are no official plans yet for when the platform will support the new profile.