The purpose of this paper is to explain the rationale behind the GSMA initiative RCS-e and its relevance for mobile network operators.
RCS-e has its origins in rich voice, a technology enabler standardized through 3GPP to enable data, video and messaging services to be invoked whilst a user is in call. More recently, through its reincarnation as Rich Communications Suite (RCS) and its evolution within GSMA to Rich Communications Suite-enhanced (RCS-e), it has become the mobile operator community response to third party over-the-top IP based services, which threaten to move the value of services to other parties and constrain operators to be simply carriers.
Over-the-top telecommunications services provided by third parties, like Google Voice, or VoIP based services like Skype, threaten to extract significant revenue from mobile operators, especially if they are offered as part of a social network package. The threat is particularly acute for LTE, which is in essence a mobile IP pipe without an integrated voice service. Operators need to counter this by offering their own social networking/IP based services. Services that rely on the social networking effect are not sustainable if all users have to be on one network – any one providing similar over the top services will win out – so mobile operator providing such services must interconnect with other operators at the service level. The best opportunity to do this is RCS-e. This is a GSMA industry standard IMS/SIP based protocol that allows operators to interconnect with other operators at the services level.
RCS-e creates a standard device/service network interface to IP services. It provides a powerful weapon to do battle against over the top service providers as it is based on IMS, and as such allows the provision of data bearers with different levels of quality – paving the way for “high definition” VoIP based voice services on LTE.
Couple with the GSMA “one API” initiative RCS-e provides a managed interface to operator networks that allows applications to be developed that use network functionality. Thus opening up the opportunity for application developers to interface with networks in a standard way – application developers will want their applications to run on all networks, so if they are to enrich applications with network functionality they will need standardised APIs.
In summary, RCS-e is a vehicle for operators to repackage and innovate around voice, which will be essential for the pure data bearers of LTE if over-the-top players are not to be allowed to establish themselves as the new telecommunications providers. With RCS-e the mobile telecommunications industry is creating a standard for interworking across all mobile operators.