Today we are going to explain what the RCS is, the technology that the operators want to happen to the SMS as a standardized messaging system. It is a modern successor to the classic text messages of a lifetime, but it will offer many of the options that we already have available in other messaging applications over the Internet.
Let’s start by explaining exactly what the RCS is and who is behind this new standard. Then we will tell you some of the things that will be offered to you in front of the SMS, and we will finish talking about when we will begin to be able to use it in a massive way as we do nowadays with the common text messages.
What is the RCS or “Chat”?
After several years watching how they lost control over mobile messaging due to the rise of WhatsApp and its alternatives, at the 2016 MWC a larger group of operators announced an agreement with Google and different manufacturers to implement the RCS standard or “Rich Communication Service”, which wanted to make the successor of the “Short Messaging Service” or SMS.
The idea is that this standard is able to offer the same functions as instant messaging applications in the messaging application or SMS of your mobile phone. In this way, to send photos, videos or voice notes you will not necessarily have to install other applications, since you can do it from any mobile without registering anywhere.
Being a standard and not a new application, operators and phone manufacturers can make their own applications to use this technology, as well as third-party developers. The good news is that all these applications that use the same standard will be compatible with each other, and the messages will arrive without problem from one to another.
And in the event that you write one of these messages to someone who still does not have any application that can use them, the message will arrive in SMS format. Its downside is that these types of messages will not be encrypted from end to end, so they will not have a layer of protection that prevents operators or governments from reading them.
This standard is already supported by Google, which is one of the companies that are directing its development, as well as a total of 55 operators. Microsoft is also on board for a possible implementation in Windows 10, and a group of 11 mobile manufacturers among which is currently not Apple. Possibly because messaging by RCS could be a competitor for your iMessage.
As for how it works, when you send your message it will go to your operator’s servers, and from there to a server certified by the GSMA called Jibe Cloud. This will be responsible for getting your message to your recipient as quickly as possible, regardless of your operator.
Who can use it?
Chat or the RCS is not going to be an application that you will have to install on your phone. Instead, it is a technology that the operating system of your mobile and your operator have to support. In fact, many operators and phones already support it, even partially, although at the moment it has not been publicized or given too much hype.
Being Google involved, almost certainly we can think that the vast majority of Android phones should be able to use it as long as the operator of each user allows it. By having Microsoft, it is expected that at some point Windows 10 also has some kind of application to be able to read messages on devices with a mobile connection.
Currently the deployment of this technology is a bit chaotic. There are operators and manufacturers that only offer some of their characteristics but not others, which means that some functions are not compatible among all users.
However, Google has established a kind of standard within this new standard that they have called Chat, and that will end up assuming a series of common rules so that all operators and manufacturers offer the same services. It will be when Chat is officially presented when the RCS race begins to succeed the SMS and compete with WhatsApp.
What is it going to offer?
This new standard will allow us to use the basic functions of any modern-day messaging app, such as notifications that the message has been read, indications that someone is writing, group messages, the possibility of sharing your location or even video calls or voice notes.
It will also be integrated with our contacts application to see who else has support for this type of messages, which in turn will allow us to share these contacts with other users. It will also allow you to send high quality images and videos with sizes of up to 10 MB, so any picture you take with your mobile phone can be sent without problems.
It will work through universal profiles that will be linked to our telephone number. This means that we will not have to register anywhere or install any application, it will be enough to use the default text message app on your mobile phone and start typing.
Google has abandoned its current instant messaging applications to focus on this new standard, and will soon start implementing new options in the Android Messaging application, such as GIF or Google Assistant search. This means that there is not yet a closed list of functions, so its uses could be extended from here to a sort of official launch.
As your messages will go from the servers of the operators to the server certified by the GSMA called Jibe Cloud, you will not need an Internet connection to send these messages. This is a very important advantage over WhatsApp and company, although the absence of encryption from end to end can be a liability for those concerned about privacy.
When and how will it arrive?
The RCS standard is already starting to be implemented by some manufacturers. Samsung without going further adds some of these functions in the messaging application of their latest high-end phones, and Google itself is adding features to your messaging app. Some operators are also beginning to support these functions.
However, the system of universal profiles is not yet finished, and only a few weeks ago we learned that Google already had a commercial name for this technology. What is needed is a kind of “official launch”, a starting signal for everyone to start using the same functions and to publicize them.
This will happen when Google officially launches Chat, which is the business name that it will give to the RCS. Its official implementation will begin with a new set of options for the Android Messages app, although manufacturers such as Samsung have already begun to put characteristics of this standard into their messaging application. There is still no official date for this release, so it could be throughout this year or even next.