AT&T launches new capabilities using RCS, but interoperability remains up in the air

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) last week launched its native Advanced Messaging and Video Call capabilities on its network using Rich Communication Services (RCS), but the vision of having the services work across multiple carriers remains elusive.

With AT&T's Advanced Messaging, customers can send larger files (up to 10 MB) by text and can know when messages are delivered, read and when the other person is typing their reply. With AT&T Video Call, customers can make and receive HD Voice calls combined with real-time video.

To use either service, both the customer and the person on the other end must be AT&T postpaid wireless customers with capable devices and within AT&T's coverage area. In the case of video calling, customers need to be in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area and have a video call-capable device. The Video Call service initially will be available on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and will expand to other devices.

AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said the carrier doesn't have anything to share on interoperability of Advanced Messaging and Video Call at this time. Last year it announced plans to work with Verizon on VoLTE interoperability, "and we are continuing that work currently," he said. "We're working with other wireless carriers on this same functionality, too. There are no other details to share right now on which carriers or timing."

The video calling service is available only in AT&T's HD Voice coverage area, and AT&T lists more than 20 markets or regions where that's available. Greer said the HD Voice coverage area is continuously expanding. "We have taken a deliberate, calculated approach to our VoLTE roll-out and launch on a market-by-market basis to ensure the best possible customer experience," he said.

At launch, Video Call and Advanced Messaging are only available on postpaid accounts. The operator declined to share any details about any plans for future prepaid support.

The RCS initiative was formed by a group of industry players back in 2007. It officially became a GSMA project in February 2008. Part of the impetus was to help operators better cope with competition from over-the-top (OTT) players. The latest release of the specifications, Release 5, addresses global interoperability as a key aspect.

Last summer, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) announced its Advanced Messaging service enabled by RCS. The operator launched with support in just a few devices but expected nearly a dozen more to be Advanced Messaging capable this year, with the feature coming standard on new smartphones going forward.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray noted in a blog post that T-Mobile's service eliminates the need for customers to use third-party services like those found via Skype, Facebook and Snapchat.

For more:
- see this blog post

Related articles:
T-Mobile launches RCS-based native video calling feature
T-Mobile launches RCS services under 'Advanced Messaging' brand, with support from Samsung phones
Jibe Mobile CEO says RCS isn't dead, points to native IP messaging embedded on smartphones
Sprint, AT&T inch toward RCS-based joyn launches