With Mobile World Congress (MWC) underway in Barcelona, Spain, the GSMA — the global trade body that counts among its members more than 800 telecom companies across the globe, including every single Canadian carrier — announced on Monday that RCS users can take advantage of the protocol’s advanced messaging feature set across 22 networks in 17 countries.
To put those numbers into context, when Rogers enabled RCS messaging for its subscribers last year, it was the second carrier in the world to do so. In all, the GSMA says there are currently more than 159 million active monthly RCS users. By the end of 2018, the trade body expects that number to increase to 350 million.
Moreover, the GSMA forecasts that more than 140 networks will be connected through RCS by the end of the year.
“In the space of a year we have aligned the industry behind a single, interoperable profile, which has resulted in a significant number of operator launches and a rapidly growing monthly user base,” said Alex Sinclair, the GSMA’s CTO, in a February 26th press release. “Now we are seeing operators further demonstrate their support for RCS by interconnecting their networks in a connect-once-to-all manner, which will dramatically increase the number of contacts a subscriber can enjoy RCS messaging with.”
RCS, short for Rich Communications System (alternatively called Advanced Messaging), is a next-generation SMS protocol. While that statement oversimplifies things somewhat, the easiest way to understand RCS is that the service could be to Android what iMessage was to iOS (for a more nuanced explanation, read MobileSyrup‘s ‘The State of RCS in Canada‘ feature from last year).
RCS layers on top of SMS features like real-time typing indicators, read receipts (both of which can be deactivated in the settings menu of Android Messages and other RCS apps), group chat and support for high-resolution images. Critically, different RCS apps are compatible with one another as long as they adhere to the GSMA’s Universal Profile.
Last week, Google’s Amir Sarhangi, the head of the search giant’s RCS effort, announced Google is working with Rogers, Freedom Mobile and 41 other telecom partners across the globe, to add improvements to the protocol.
In the U.S., Google is working with Sprint to build out a business-to-customer functionality to RCS.