Google, Sprint Launch RCS Messaging on Android Phones

Google launched Rich Communication Services messaging for Sprint customers who use Android phones. Messages based on the RCS spec will upgrade the SMS experience for mobile users.

Google, Android Phones, Rich Communication Services

Google's efforts to push broad adoption of Rich Communication Services for cross-operator messaging on mobile devices appear to be gaining traction.

The company announced on Nov. 4 that it has launched RCS messaging for Sprint customers that are using Android phones. The new support will allow Android users to conduct group chats, send high-resolution photos, receive and read receipts, and generally do more with chat than they currently are able to with standard Short Message Service (SMS).

"Sprint subscribers will have their standard SMS experience upgraded through the Messenger apps for Android devices, developed by Google," Amir Sarhangi head of RCS, said in announcing the launch on Google Keyword blog.

Sprint subscribers will see RCS support in Messenger for Android becoming available in 2017. All new Android devices from Sprint will have the RCS-enabled version of Messenger enabled by default on their systems starting next year, Sarhangi said.

Existing Sprint subscribers using certain LG and Nexus phone models will automatically receive the new Messenger as an over-the-air update next year. Meanwhile, Sprint subscribers using other devices will be able to download the Messenger version with RCS via Google's Play store.

Google will launch RCS with more partners in the next few months, Sarhangi added.

RCS is an attempt by the GSM Association (GSMA) to develop a specification that mobile operators can use to deliver messaging services comparable to WhatsApp, Facebook and other mobile apps. Most of the SMS-based messaging services that mobile operators currently offer are harder to use and lack the rich multimedia functionality offered by such mobile apps.

In addition to Sprint, a slew of other mobile operators, including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Vodafone, Telenor Group, Bharti Airtel and Telstra, have committed to using RCS for their messaging services.

Earlier this year, Google announced an initiative to work with several of these organizations to develop an Android RCS client and a common, universal profile for the RCS specification. The goal of that effort is to foster standards around RCS via the use of consistent feature sets, implementation protocols and configurations.

The 58 GSMA carriers and manufactures that are engaged in the RCS initiative have agreed to use the common RCS specification—or Universal Profile for Advanced Messaging—that Google is developing.

There will be two releases of the Universal Profile. The first one will launch on Nov. 17 and support a variety of capabilities, including chat, group chat, file transfer, audio messaging and video sharing across operators, according to the GSMA.

The second release is scheduled for the second quarter of 2017 and will support more APIs and improved authentication and application security among other things.

With this week's announcement, Sprint has become the first carrier to use the universal RCS profile. The service will be powered by Google's Jibe, an RCS cloud service.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.