A host of global operators, GSMA and Google today announced the launch of a new industry initiative designed to accelerate the availability of Rich Communications Services (RCS).

The move will enable an open, consistent and globally interoperable messaging service across Android devices.

Operators have agreed to transition towards a common universal profile, based on GSMA’s RCS specifications and an Android RCS client, provided by Google in collaboration with operators and OEMs.

As part of the messaging experience, features such as group chat, high res photo sharing, read receipts, and more, will now be enabled, “enhancing the experience of over 4 billion SMS users worldwide”.

Among the operators supporting are America Movil, Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Millicom, MTN, Orange, Sprint, Telenor Group, TIM, VimpelCom and Vodafone.

In a statement, the industry association said mobile operators will now be able to deploy a consistent RCS implementation, feature set and configuration.

The profile and client will enable consistent and interoperable messaging experiences between all Android devices and across operators worldwide, as well as easing testing between networks and reducing time to market.

The universal profile can also be implemented by other operating systems, and will be supported by GSMA’s accreditation process. Google will also provide an open source version of the client based on the universal profile specification and will provide developer APIs.

Alex Sinclair, GSMA CTO, believes the initiative “points to the future of how mobile users will communicate with one another”.

“This is an incredibly positive development for the industry,” he said. “Google’s contributions will provide operators a new opportunity for a rich, consistent implementation across Android devices and offer a real step change in messaging experiences for consumers worldwide.”

In rolling out RCS, which has already been launched by 47 operators in 34 countries, operators have the choice of deploying their own infrastructure, or use Google’s Jibe platform, which supports the universal RCS profile.

“Today marks an important step forward in bringing a better messaging experience for Android users everywhere, and we’re thrilled to collaborate with our partners across the industry to make this happen,” added Nick Fox, Google’s VP of communications products.