Russian operator MTS is set to launch a self-dubbed “OTT service” for “making calls, sending messages and sharing files based on Rich Communications Services (RCS),” starting in its domestic market.

Beginning next week, the MTS Connect app will be available for free to iOS and Android customers in Moscow.

MTS spent RUB 100 million ($1.4 million) on the project (buying servers, developing the app and optimising existing equipment) and plans to expand the service to other regions in Russia as well as neighbouring states it serves next year.  Its non-Russian operations are in Ukraine, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus.

“Unlike many instant messengers, users will be identified through their mobile accounts which fully eliminates any risk of losing the access to the service due to hacking messenger accounts,” the company said.

RCS provides consumers with instant messaging, live video and file sharing on any network, 2G, 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi, it added.

RCS is the GSMA-backed technology for advanced messaging services built on an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) backbone.

In October, Google bought RCS provider Jibe Mobile for an undisclosed fee, giving an unexpected filip to the technology. Jibe supports RCS for a number of major operators, including Deutsche Telekom, SFR, Sprint and Vodafone.

Calls made and messages sent on the MTS network via the app will not be charged separately, whether the customer is inside Russia or on international roaming, while data usage charges will depend on what tariff plan the customer is on.

The operator quoted Infonetics Research as saying that from 2012 to 2016 operator revenues from RCS will amount to $1.6 billion globally. It also mentioned in its statement that according to Juniper Research by 2018 the volume of messages sent globally using RCS will have increased to over 83 billion per year.

MTS saw revenue in Q3 2015 rise encouragingly by 7.4 per cent to RUB 115 billion ($1.77 billion). Revenue from its Russian operations increased by 4.7 per cent to RUB 104 billion, propelled by 20 per cent year-on-year growth in data traffic.