Advanced Communications: Connectivity to everything and disrupting OTT services
Mobile devices are increasingly playing a pivotal role in our digital lifestyles. From the way we connect, shop and pay bills, to the way we socialise and consume information, smart devices are becoming central to everything we do.
Yet subscribers continue to expect to be able to connect to the world for little more than their monthly subscription or their pre-paid limits, presenting operators with a conundrum; how can I still make any money, when ARPU is flat-lining and the cost of my network keeps going up?
Disruption / Opportunity
Over recent years, over-the-top (OTT) apps and services have disrupted the world of mobile operators. By enabling connectivity over Wi-Fi and 4G, the likes of Snapchat or WhatsApp effectively offer “free” communication using data plans, and this has hurt operators’ revenue streams.
But OTT players have also created a number of revenue opportunities in enhanced ecommerce, marketing, advertising, gaming and CRM. Facebook, for example, recently opened its Messenger app to enterprises which, along with the rise in chatbots, offers businesses a new way of building relationships with their customers, says Nicolas Appert , EVP Monetisation, Xura.
A lot can be learned from the business models embraced by OTT services and, while this has created positive market disruption it has also created opportunities for everyone who plays a role in the mobile value chain.
The slow burner
The disruption from OTT players was unexpected and took the mobile industry, including subscribers, by surprise. Even before this disruption, the GSMA had launched the industry-driven Rich Communication Suite (RCS) initiative, to create a way for operators to deliver a richer, consistent communication experience globally, regardless of network or device. RCS services extended beyond traditional voice, SMS, chat and content sharing.
Fast forward 10 years, and the GSMA’s newly renamed “Advanced Communications” is the next iteration of RCS, which is undergoing a transformation. The aims are still the same – to offer a simple, effortless and ubiquitous way to connect and interact with anyone, anywhere from any mobile device (just like SMS always has), but it has a renewed vigour, in part due to Google’s announcement earlier that they were entering the RCS world.
There is increased confidence in the future of Advanced Messaging and its ability to deliver even better value for money to subscribers and now could be the time that we really see it take hold.
As part of this new drive, last month saw the launch of the GSMA’s Universal Profile for Advanced Communication. The fast-forward button has truly been hit on RCS, and with Samsung’s recent acquisition of NewNet, there are encouraging signs for the industry that RCS’s time is finally here.
The promise of the rainbow
The beauty of “RCS” or “Advanced Communiation” is its openess, alongside being device and network agnostic. As its name suggests, it promises to be RICHER than other offerings; enabling voice, video, messaging and file sharing, as well as becoming the access hub for many more services and transactions.
Picking up an RCS-enabled device will immediately connect users to all other RCS-enabled devices across the globe. This means that users could be connected to around nine billion people with rich services that are embedded in their devices without needing to download an application.
The pot of gold
Traditionally, organisations have used SMS to push information to their customers – for example, in the UK the NHS sends doctor’s appointment reminders by text. But where operators are keen to evolve the network to support IP messaging and an OTT-like experience, RCS could offer greater opportunities for engagement not only for themselves but for enterprises too.
Through a single messaging client, consumers can interact with businesses in richer, more personalised ways, without jumping between text conversations, phone calls and websites or apps to get hold of important information, make a purchase or book a service.
At the moment, to speak to someone about your doctor’s appointment, you have to call the number given in the SMS and potentially wait on hold until an operator becomes available. If instead you receive the reminder via RCS over IP, it gives you the option to chat directly through that single platform.
And, if an airline wanted to push a message to a customer, they could send it to a third-party RCS gateway who would then determine whether a particular customer was on an RCS-capable device and, if so, push a rich message – say, a boarding pass – directly to their handset.
This brings us to Messaging as a Platform (MaaP), which stems from RCS and provides operators with the opportunity to monetise messaging by opening up access to more content across the domain. MaaP creates a new hybrid model, in which others, for example app developers and enterprises, can build applications to send and receive messages, offering users a more comfortable and efficient way to interact and enabling new application-to-person (A2P) use cases.
It will also interwork with legacy and IP messaging services, as communication services transition, and is another specification being driven by the GSMA, which will launch in quarter two 2017 and includes APIs, plug-in integration and improved authentication and app security.
A standardised future
While there are only a few RCS-enabled handsets on the market today, the launch of the Universal Profile and the MaaP by the GSMA, is a fundamental step forward for the mobile industry. In creating a standardised interoperability framework in which operators can deliver an advanced and enriched messaging experience, with common features that are consistent across providers, they are better positioned to compete successfully against the OTT players in the mobile space.
With the ability for RCS features to be hosted in the cloud, and with MaaP, operators can be ready now for RCS-enabled devices on their networks so their end-users can take full advantage of those devices’ rich communication capabilities.
After ten years it seems the stars are aligning for RCS. Improvements made in network reliability, global interoperability and service ubiquity mean there’s never been a better time for operators and businesses to embrace its benefits. By enabling a more consistent service through standardisation, operators can now offer communication capabilities with content that will add value to the subscriber experience, while simultaneously improving their bottom line.
The author of this blog is Nicolas Appert , EVP Monetisation, Xura
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