Cross-carrier RCS JV effort shuts down

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Google and T-Mobile last month said they plan to build a messaging business together. (Pixabay)

A joint venture by the biggest U.S. wireless operators focused on an interoperable messaging service based on Rich Communications Service (RCS) is no longer in the works, as the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) shut down. CCMI’s demise was first reported by Light Reading.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon announced the CCMI in 2019 as a joint venture to develop and deploy an RCS-based messaging service starting with Android in 2020. At the time, they said the CCMI service would drive a business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem and accelerate the adoption of RCS, which is the messaging service the GSMA first developed as joyn to counter OTT messaging apps.

But that never quite got off the ground. Both AT&T and Verizon provided identical statements Wednesday when asked about the current status of CCMI: “The owners of the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative decided to end the joint venture effort. However, the owners remain committed to enhancing the messaging experience for customers including growing the availability of RCS.”

T-Mobile didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry, but it announced a deal last month where it’s going full-speed ahead on RCS with Google. T-Mobile launched RCS messaging in 2015 and its partnership with Google includes a collaboration aimed at expanding RCS access. Starting later this year, Google’s Messages app will be pre-installed on all new Android devices the carrier sells.

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Synchronoss Technologies won the contract to provide the RCS platform for CCMI in 2019. While the company has seen RCS success in Japan, that’s not the case in the U.S., although Synchronoss would like to change that.

One of the main reasons RCS didn’t take off was its availability on devices. Nowadays, Android smartphones from major OEMs have RCS support natively, according to Lokdeep Singh, general manager and SVP of Messaging at Synchronoss. Feature phone RCS capability varies by OEM, but Synchronoss is working with carriers and OEMs to make it available on feature phones, which has already happened in Japan, he said.

It’s not native on iPhones, however, which make up about half of the smartphones in the U.S.