In one of the first attempts to bring a sense of unification to the largely scattered Android ecosystem Google and GSMA have announced a partnership with telecom operators like Airtel, Telenor and others to develop a cross platform messaging service for the Android ecosystem.
According to the official GSMA announcement, the service will be an “initiative to accelerate the availability of Rich Communications Services (RCS)”.
The initiative will enable all operators worldwide to provide an open, consistent, and globally interoperable messaging service across Android devices. Operators have agreed to transition toward a common, universal profile based on the GSMA’s RCS specifications and an Android RCS client provided by Google in collaboration with operators and OEMs.
By aligning on a universal RCS (an improved version of the MMS client) profile, mobile operators will be able to deploy a consistent RCS implementation, feature set, and configuration. The Android RCS client provided by Google will be based on the universal profile, enabling consumers to access RCS services on their devices. Features such as group chat, high-res photo sharing, read receipts, and more, will now become part of the operator messaging experience. GSMA RCS advanced calling features will also be supported in the future by Google.
This could well be GSMA’s attempt to take on the likes of Whatsapp and others — IM services who have a combined user base of over 1.5 Billion across numerous platforms — with Whatsapp alone taking over a billion of them. However, even though this new service sounds exactly like those prevalent currently, it’ll still be a lot of time until this service actually becomes a mass movement like Whatsapp.
This new RCS profile and client will enable a consistent and interoperable messaging experience between all Android devices and across all operators worldwide, as well as ease interoperability testing between networks and significantly reduce time to market.
The universal profile can be implemented by other operating systems and will be supported by a formal GSMA accreditation process. Google will also provide an open source version of the client based on the universal profile specification and will provide developer APIs to enhance the RCS client experience.
The exact list of operators taking part in this includes América Móvil, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Globe Telecom, KPN, Millicom, MTN, Orange, PLAY, Smart Communications, Sprint, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, Telstra, TIM, Turkcell, VimpelCom and Vodafone.