AT&T strikes RCS deal with Google

cell phone text
RCS is making strides in the U.S. but still lacks support from Apple. (Pixabay)

Google and AT&T announced Wednesday that they’re working to establish Messages by Google as the default messaging application for all AT&T customers in the U.S. using Android phones.

It’s similar to an agreement that Google announced with T-Mobile, where Google’s Messages app is being pre-installed as the default RCS messaging client on all new Android devices.

“Many AT&T customers have enjoyed the advantages of RCS for years when texting with friends and family,” said David Christopher, EVP and general manager at AT&T Mobility, in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with Google to extend these benefits to even more of our customers as they enjoy richer conversations with others around the world.”

They went on to describe all of the great features Android users will get with Messages, such as instantly knowing when someone is replying to a text, higher-quality video and better group chats.

RELATED: Apple, Google rule wireless ecosystem – not operators: Entner

RCS, which stands for Rich Communications Services, has a storied history. (Some call it a train wreck.) It started as an effort, called joyn, by the GSMA to combat all those over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps that were eating into carriers’ messaging pocketbooks. It sounded like a great idea, but like other initiatives based on broad carrier support, like mobile money services, it didn’t turn out as hoped.

In 2015, Google acquired Jibe Mobile, a leader in RCS services, and RCS started making its way into all kinds of Android phones. The problem was, that didn’t include the “other” dominant OS for U.S. smartphones – iOS from Apple. As The Verge reported, the iPhone doesn’t support RCS and Apple hasn’t said whether it ever will.

Earlier this year, the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), a joint venture with the biggest U.S. carriers committed to RCS, disbanded, with AT&T and Verizon issuing separate statements about their intentions to remain committed to RCS. By that time, T-Mobile had already announced its plans to go ahead with Google on the Android side of the house.

RELATED: Synchronoss CEO still has high hopes for RCS in U.S.

Synchronoss Technologies, the company that won the contract to provide the RCS platform for CCMI in 2019, remained upbeat of the prospects for RCS in the U.S., telling Fierce earlier this year that it would work with individual carriers on the effort. At the time, Synchronoss President and CEO Jeff Miller said the model that’s emerging in the U.S. is more like the one in Japan, and it’s one where Synchronoss believes it can be successful.