SK Telecom launching joyn-branded RCS in less than two weeks

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SK Telecom will launch joyn-branded Rich Communication Services (RCS) before the end of this year as the South Korean operator joins a handful of others that have pioneered RCS offerings.

The Seoul-based operator was rumored to be planning an RCS launch before 2012 wrapped up. Byun Jae-woan, SK Telecom's CTO and head of its technology division, confirmed to FierceBroadbandWireless that the plan is still on schedule.

Though not providing specifics regarding the product offering, Byun said the service "will feature a number of new functions added to the RCS-e standard under the GSMA's joyn brand."

Other operators that have launched joyn-branded services this year include Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Vodafone and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), which broke ranks with the Europeans by launching with the more-advanced RCS 5 technology rather than RCS-e.

Joyn is being used in Europe primarily as an over-the-top (OTT) messaging platform for carriers. MetroPCS says its joyn-branded offering enables numerous new services, including threaded text conversations, sharing of video, images and files while on a call, as well as voice and video calling over Wi-Fi.

Operators are looking to RCS as a way to compete against, or potentially partner with, third-party OTT content providers, which are increasingly siphoning off lucrative revenue streams from the carriers.

"As we approach mobile saturation, the mobile industry is undeniably shifting from voice to data, and over-the-top voice revenue is shifting away from mobile operators," said Stephane Teral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research. "SMS use is fading in places like Japan, the US, the Netherlands and the UK in favor of free applications over mobile broadband that enable internet browsing, email and, more importantly, video. Those services may be free to subscribers, but handling the traffic is not free to the network operators."

Service providers are spending billions of dollars to upgrade their networks to handle skyrocketing data traffic, much of which is attributable to free OTT services. Though mobile service revenue is increasing year-over-year, the growth rate is decreasing, said Teral. In some cases, mobile service revenue is failing to keep pace with network operator capex, he added.

For more:
- see this On the Hot Seat interview
- see this Infonetics release

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